Who We Are

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Company Overview
Apse, Inc. has developed technology that will allow the cost efficient production of RNA for broad acre topical RNAi uses in agriculture. Other high use rate applications for RNA (such as for RNAi in aquaculture or animal husbandry) could also benefit but Apse’s initial focus is agriculture crop protection and improvement.

Unmet Need and Market Opportunity
RNA Interference (RNAi) is a natural mechanism of gene expression, and various forms are common in all life. Scientists in all areas of life sciences are working on product development strategies based on harnessing this natural regulatory mechanism which blocks, or down regulates, the expression of specific genes. RNAi is a highly targeted and effective way to impart desired genetic traits without genetic modification and as such can deliver many of the benefits of biotechnology without having to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Genetically modified organisms in agriculture are widespread but still face large public perception issues. Furthermore they are costly to develop and must overcome extensive regulatory hurdles. Most of the major Agriculture companies are working toward various topical applications of RNAi for crop protection and improvement. However, the cost to supply the large quantities of RNA needed to service the needs for RNAi applications in broad acre agriculture has been a hurdle to future commercial use. Successful execution of Apse manufacturing technology will overcome this impediment.

Core Innovation and Competitive Advantage
Apse technology allows RNA to be manufactured using well proven large scale fermentation processes. Prior to Apse manufacturing innovations these large scale fermentation processes were not viable because of the high cost incurred in isolating the desired RNA produced in the fermentation process. Apse technology sequesters, inside a protein capsid, the RNA as it is produced thus protecting it from RNAse degradation. This protein capsid protects the RNA allowing subsequent isolation and purification. There is also a high level of interest in using the protein encapsidated RNA as a delivery mechanism.

Business Strategy
Apse has established two collaboration projects with major agriculture companies and is at various stages of discussion with three additional companies. Apse has shown that the RNA produced via its process is active in RNAi applications (for instance, down regulation of insect genes). Apse plans to license, on an individual RNA sequence basis, its manufacturing technology to various agricultural companies in exchange for license fees and downstream royalties. One potential exit for Apse would be via an acquisition by a major agriculture company.

 

RNA interference

Technical Promise and Market Opportunity of RNAi:
RNA interference (RNAi) is a natural phenomenon ubiquitous to all eukaryotes (Animals, Plants, Fungi and others). RNAi occurs when small stretches of RNA inhibit gene expression mainly by interfering with the function of “messenger RNA”. Discovered about 15 years ago RNAi is considered a recent major breakthrough in biological science. In 2006, Andrew Fire and Craig C. Mello shared the Nobel Prize for this discovery published in 1998.

There is enormous interest among life-science researchers across many disciplines in RNAi as a tool for research and as the basis of life-science products offering a wide range of potential benefits. RNAi activity resulting from topically applied RNA promises the ability to control gene expression in a highly targeted way without genetically modifying the target organism. Unlike traditional life-science products, RNAi works in such a specific way – typically targeting a single gene – that it promises the ability to promote highly specific and desirable biological effects with greatly reduced “off target” effects. This might include insecticides that target only crop pests and which have no effect on benign and beneficial insects; and new non-GMO approaches to boost agricultural productivity without having to make genetic alterations to the genome of the crop plant.

There are two fundamental problems with RNAi approaches as a practical matter however.

  • One is the high cost of making RNA. This high-cost puts RNAi well out of reach for the vast majority of its potential product applications, especially in agriculture.
  • A second fundamental problem is the effective delivery of RNA to the target tissue within the target organism. Precisely because RNA is potentially so powerful, most life forms have developed one or several defense mechanisms to protect themselves from exogenously produced RNA, most importantly enzymes called “RNAses” that cut up or otherwise destroy exogenously produced RNA on contact.

Apse is devoted to addressing both these problems with the same core technology. Apse’s approach (patents pending) allows our licensees to make RNA using large-scale fermentation approaches greatly reducing the cost to produce these valuable natural products. Our approach is based on small containers called ARCs that protect RNA from degradation by RNAses during the fermentation process. The ARCs also provide a stable delivery mechanism protecting RNA from RNAses in the environment – and from other environmental hazards such as UV light. These ARCs are made up of proteins in configurations that may be taken up preferentially by specific organisms and can potentially be used to target specific tissues within those organisms. Thus, the Apse approach holds out the promise of effective delivery of RNA to where it can have its desired biological effect.

Technology

The Apse Technology:
The Apse technology and approach addresses some of the major challenges to the mass production of exogenous RNAi-based products. First, Apse technology enables a rapid transition to the industrial scale low-cost production of ready-to-spray RNAi products which can, if desired, be protected in environmentally stable protein containers. Finally, Apse’s growing set of numerous capsids, which have the natural potential for rapid uptake by plant and insect cells, offers a promising means to not only be the manufacturing engine and degradation protection of RNA, but to also serve as the natural delivery vehicle of RNA to cells in the target organism. All of this is possible through our proprietary platform which leverages proven molecular biology, virology and microbiology techniques.

  • Enabling Low- Cost, Commercial Scale Manufacturing with ARCs:This discussion refers to the figure below. Once validated lead RNAi constructs are identified, Apse scientists engineer constructs enabling the commercial scale production of Apse RNA Containers™ (or ARCs). ARCs are simple, environmentally stable containers made of naturally occurring proteins (e.g., capsids), produced in an E. coli fermentation process and packed with RNA. This proprietary process is elegantly simple. Plasmids coding for ARC proteins are co-transformed with plasmids coding for RNAi precursor sequences which include a packaging site (payload). As E. coli cells multiply in culture, they produce protein subunits that self-assemble around RNA in the cell, including primarily the RNA payload sequence. Significantly, Apse’s proprietary purification protocol cost-effectively separates ARCs from undesirable bacterial debris, resulting in the production of environmentally stable RNA. Leveraging well-understood fermentation processes, the approach has the potential to reach significant scale.
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  • Optimizing RNAi Delivery Modality:
    One of Apse’s most compelling advantages as a platform for the in-field delivery of exogenous RNAi is the protection provided by ARCs from the environmental degradation of RNA. Apse has identified numerous protein constructs, all covered by Apse’s patent estate, which may naturally facilitate uptake by plant and insect cells, and which could be explored to maximize delivery of RNAi to selected target organisms.
  • Prosecuting Filed Patents – Generating New Filings From Ongoing Research:The Apse technology was invented by the Company’s founder, Dr. Juan Arhancet, Ph.D. (see his biography in website tab “Our Board”.) A chemical engineer by training, Dr. Arhancet has spent most of his career in industry, first at Shell and later at Monsanto. He is an inventor on more 30 issued U.S. patents and several significant marketed products are currently manufactured by processes he invented. Juan became interested in Biology while at Monsanto. He has completed his training in molecular biology through an MA degree earned at Washington University. All of the patents that describe the Apse technology are assigned directly, exclusively and irrevocably to the Company.The Company plans on filing patents regularly including refinements to its methods and, significantly, on compositions of matter including: genetically transformed fermentation organisms and specific ARC formulations.

    The Company’s Patent applications numbers US 14/279,793 and US 13/725,184 are published and available here and here:

    All other patent filings plus Freedom To Operate and Patentability opinions commissioned by BioGenerator, our lead, pre-seed investor, are available only under benefit of confidentiality agreement.

 

Strategy

The Apse Business Development Strategy
Apse’s Business Development strategy consists of three fundamental thrusts

  • Internal Technology Development – The Core of Apse’s business development strategy are the technical efforts and patent prosecution work in support of the Company’s Intellectual Property Portfolio and related proofs of principle. This work will be supported by invested capital plus overhead contributions from the Company’s collaborators. This thrust may involve collaborations with academic and not-for-profit institutes. A good example is the Company’s ongoing collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Station at Columbia Missouri.
  • Product Development Collaborations – An important aspect of the Company’s business development strategy involves entering into revenue-bearing product development collaborations with large agricultural product companies. Each collaborative project is designed to demonstrate the utility of the Apse technologies within a narrowly defined scope that preserves appropriate rights for both partners.
  • Monetization Through Serial Asset Sales – The ultimate aim of Apse’s business development strategy is to provide monetization events for our investors and shareholders. We will accomplish this by structuring the Company for the creation and sale of legal entities each holding exclusive licenses to product development, manufacturing, and commercialization rights within a distinct industrial category.

People:

Apse Inc is located in St. Louis, one of the premier agricultural science clusters in the United States. Our St. Louis location gives the company access to a world-class team of staff, directors and advisors. The Apse Team currently includes:

John Killmer
Chief Executive Officer
30+ years in the crop protection and biotechnology businesses of Monsanto, Arysta LifeScience and AMVAC Chemical. P&L, R&D and product management including President of Monsanto China. Read more.

Juan Arhancet
Chief Science Officer
20+ years, successful inventor at Shell and Monsanto. 30+ issued patents. Apse Inc. founder, inventor. Read more.

Patrick McLaughlin
Director of Molecular Biology
15+ years in research science, focus on molecular biology and biotechnology for the production of products by fermentation of microorganisms. Has worked as a Ph.D. level scientist at Novus International and Benson Hill Biosystems. Read more.

Board of Directors Roles

David Smoller
Director – Bus. Dev.
25+ years, life-sciences leadership in early stage and large companies. Currently, CEO – Sage Labs. Chief Science officer Sigma Aldrich.

Nathan Lakey
Director – Technology
CEO of Orion Genomics (highly profitable plant genomics company). Ran laboratory operations at Millennium Pharma, Cereon.

John McAlister
Director – Chairman
30+ years, life sciences business leadership. Member of founding team and led Tripos as CEO through IPO and acquisition. Currently CEO, iNovotec Animal Care & CEO, Thermaquatica, Inc.

Dan Broderick
Director – Investor
Represents lead seed-stage investor.

Walter “Pete” Siggelko
Director 
Dr. Siggelko is a Director of Benson Hill Biosystems. Pete is a many-year veteran of the Agricultural input industry and spent most of his career in senior positions at Dow AgroSciences (DAS).

Our Board

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to
continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

John Killmer, Ph.D.

John Killmer, Ph.D.

CEO, Apse

John Killmer is CEO of Apse. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and has more than 30 years in the crop protection and biotechnology industries including 25 years with Monsanto.
Read More

Juan Arhancet

Juan Arhancet

Chief Science Officer, Apse

Dr. Juan Arhancet, Apse’s Chief Science Officer, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Universidad de la República, Uruguay, a Master’s Degree in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis…
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Dr. David A. Smoller

Dr. David A. Smoller

CEO, SAGE Labs

Ph.D. serves as Chief Executive Officer of SAGE Labs, Inc. Dr. Smoller serves as a General Partner at Cultivation Capital Life Sciences Fund, LLC and Cultivation Capital. Dr. Smoller has been an Independent Consultant…
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Nathan Lakey

Nathan Lakey

President/CEO, Orion Genomics

He was regionally recognized with the top 40 under 40 award (2004 St. Louis), presented with the governor’s top technology award (2005 Missouri) and currently serves on the Patient Care Committee of the Board…
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Dan Broderick

Dan Broderick

Vice President, BioSTL

Dan Broderick is Vice President, Capital Formation and Entrepreneurship at BioSTL – the parent corporation BioGenerator, which is the lead pre-seed stage investor in APSE.
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Walter “Pete” Siggelko

Walter “Pete” Siggelko

Pete Siggelko is a highly experienced Agriculture Industry expert who held senior positions for many years at Dow AgroSciences.

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Dr. John McAlister

Dr. John McAlister

Founder/CEO, iNOVOTEC Animal Care

Dr. John McAlister is currently founder and CEO of iNovotec Animal Care and CEO of Thermaquatica, Inc.
Read More

Advisors

Dr. David Wood, a member of Apse’s SAB, holds a Ph.D. in Enzymology from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is an expert in protein biochemistry, protein expression, and associated analytical methodology. Dr. Wood has been Research Assistant Professor at the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department of Saint Louis University, Missouri for the last 3 years. From 2003 until 2010 he was Associate Research Fellow at Pfizer, Inc., in St. Louis. Before that he was Senior Research Scientist for 17 years at Pharmacia Upjohn Co., GD Searle, and Monsanto Co.

Dr. Henry Huang, a member of Apse’s SAB, holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from California Institute of Technology. He is an expert in the molecular biology and evolution of RNA viruses. Dr. Wang has been Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri for the last 21 years, where he started as Assistant Professor in 1982.

Dr. Kathleen Hall, a member of Apse’s SAB, holds a Ph.D. in Biophysics from University of California, Berkeley. She is an expert in RNA molecules and their interactions with their protein partners. Dr. Hall has been Professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri for the last 8 years, where she started as Assistant Professor in 1990.

Dr. Stephen Lorbert ,Ph.D. is currently principal with Lorbert Consulting. He provides technical support for the evaluation and development of new technology related to the production of nutritional and pharmaceutical products. Prior to his present position, he was with Novus International, Inc. He retired from Novus in 2012 after 20 years of service with the company in various positions. When he left Novus, he was Vice President of Chemistry and Analytical Services. At Novus, he was responsible for all fermentation-based product development.

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Are you interested in learning more about our technology and company? Contact us by filling out the form, E-mailing us,  or call us at: ( 314)808-3852.