“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to
continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Apse Business Development Strategy
Apse’s Business Development strategy consists of three fundamental thrusts
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:
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.
Chief Science Officer
20+ years, successful inventor at Shell and Monsanto. 30+ issued patents. Apse Inc. founder, inventor. Read more.
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.
Director – Bus. Dev.
25+ years, life-sciences leadership in early stage and large companies. Currently, CEO – Sage Labs. Chief Science officer Sigma Aldrich.
Director – Technology
CEO of Orion Genomics (highly profitable plant genomics company). Ran laboratory operations at Millennium Pharma, Cereon.
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.
Director – Investor
Represents lead seed-stage investor.
Walter “Pete” Siggelko
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).
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.