New investors on board for SARomics Biostructures
20 October 2012
With new investors on board, SARomics Biostructures is looking forward to the new MAX IV Laboratory. The idea is that, in time, the company will go from being a pure consultancy firm in structure determination of proteins and protein crystallisation to developing its own pharmaceutical substances. A large part of the company’s development and operations take place at MAX-lab’s crystallisation facility.SARomics Biostructures is based in Lund, Sweden, and has five employees working at MAX-lab and at Medicon Village’s Life Science Incubator.
The company tests pharmaceutical substances using three-dimensional structure analysis and is one of few parties to use MAX-lab for commercial purposes at present. It is the company’s commercial potential which has recently led Innovationsbron AB and Lund University Innovation System AB (LUIS) to invest in the company and become part-owners.
The crystallisation facility at MAX-lab comprises both high-tech robots and simpler laboratory equipment. There, SARomics Biostructures carries out around 1 000 experiments a week on proteins to see if they can be crystallised. Those that are successfully crystallised are then examined on beamline I911 at MAX-lab, where the protein’s structure becomes visible.
For the experiments, plates of protein solution are prepared into which different chemicals are mixed.
“It is not possible to determine in advance which proteins can be crystallised, so it’s a process of trial and error. The robots help us to carry out experiments on a large scale and it does not take long to collect data for structure determination at beamline I911, which is a great advantage”, says Maria Håkansson, manager of the crystallisation facility.
If a protein does crystallise and the structure is determined, it is deposited in the international Protein Data Bank (PDB). Details of the protein’s structure and the method used to achieve the results are registered.
“I remember when I was a doctoral student in the 1990s and getting a protein deposited in the database was a big deal. Since then I have deposited loads of proteins, so it doesn’t seem quite as cool any more!” says Maria Håkansson, who holds an MSc in Engineering and a PhD in Structural Biology.
Maria Håkansson started working at SARomics in 2006, just after the company was formed. SARomics undertakes both academic and commercial projects, and makes the crystallisation facility available for all interested researchers in Sweden. Some of the results that are found at MAX-lab are sent straight back to the researchers, for example results from the imaging microscope in the plate hotel.
The customers for the commercial projects are pharmaceutical companies from around the world. They may, for example, want to find out how a protein binds to a pharmaceutical substance, and this knowledge is a step in the development of more effective drugs.
The founders of SARomics are Björn Walse and Bo Svensson, who work full-time at the company, along with Derek Logan, Salam Al-Karadaghi, Mikael Akke and Anders Liljas. As well as Maria Håkansson, Raymond Kimbung and Martin Welin are also employed by SARomics.