The IDT Synthetic Biology Start-Up Grant Program aims to empower the next generation of innovative companies who are striving to make a positive impact through sustainable manufacturing, human health, or humanitarian causes.

To support them in solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges, grant winners are awarded gBlocks Gene Fragments, or an equivalent value of other IDT products, that can be used in synthetic biology applications.

Congratulations to our 2018 winners, HelixNano and Tiba Biotech!

Top prize winner HelixNano awarded 100,000 bp of gBlocks Gene Fragments

Their vision

HelixNano hopes to boost the efficacy of cancer vaccines through the creation of “precision neoantigens.” Designed in part by machine learning, these molecular scaffolds include a person’s specific tumor-related antigen, along with elements that enhance immune system activation.

How IDT’s grant will help

With more gBlocks Gene Fragments at their disposal, the scientists at HelixNano will be able to create, express, and test a larger range of precision neoantigens. As a result, they expect an increased likelihood of finding ideal antigens for vaccine development.

The bigger picture

Neoantigen vaccines are a promising cancer treatment, but current efficacy is low, with only 1–10% of predicted neoantigens generating immune cell activity. HelixNano’s precision neoantigen architectures have the potential to combine with existing neoantigen vaccine pipelines, leading to a faster and more robust ability to design effective personalized vaccines.

Runner-up Tiba Biotech awarded 50,000 bp of gBlocks Gene Fragments

Their vision

Tiba Biotech aims to create a new generation of affordable vaccines that target epidemics and overlooked diseases using a cost-effective, rapid, on-demand production system.

How IDT’s grant will help

gBlocks Gene Fragments will be used for individual and group antigen screening, and will allow validation of appropriate antigens for a synthetic RNA vaccine against Schistosomiasis.

The bigger picture

Schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic flatworms in the developing world, has been overlooked by current vaccine providers and classified as a “Neglected Tropical Disease” by the CDC. By combining optimized antigen design with a novel and cost-effective vaccine delivery system, Tiba Biotech hopes to generate not only an effective vaccine, but one within economic limitations.

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