Brewing up a new business: AB InBev surprises with ambitions for animal-free proteins

Belgian-American AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, has set up a separate R&D division called BioBrew to develop animal-free proteins using precision fermentation. Quite a number of companies are already focused on producing alternative proteins, which don’t cause harm to animals and are more sustainable, but they generally lack the capacity to produce them on a commercial level. This is one of the things that sets BioBrew apart, thanks to AB InBev’s knowhow of using yeast fermentation on a large scale to make beer.
Batteries are a crucial component of the energy transition away from fossil fuels, but the technology currently faces issues with sustainable recycling methods, which are vital for recuperating the rare raw materials inside the power cells. The European ACROBAT consortium, led by Flemish research center VITO, is tackling this issue specifically for LFP batteries – a type of lithium-ion batteries that are steadily growing in importance, including for electric cars.
BCCM is a Belgian non-profit consortium of seven biological resource centers preserving and distributing microbial and genetic resources, offering storage and scientific services for both academia and industry. These world-class collections are exceptional in terms of the number and variety of specimens and excellent quality control. BCCM’s confidential deposit services are a great way for companies to store genetic material and microorganisms for safety or patent purposes, including hybridomas and other cell lines.
The young Belgian start-up Persomed is unique – it was founded in 2020 by four partners each with relevant expertise in the personalized immunotherapy field: myNEO, QbD Group, Antleron, and the VUB. Together, the multidisciplinary strength and expertise has resulted in the development of Persomed’s cutting-edge technology platform for personalized cancer treatments. The organization is now at crucial point, raising funds to initiate a clinical trial phase I in a first, urgent-medical-need indication: metastatic colorectal cancer.
Intressa Vascular is using its proprietary stent braiding technology to develop an innovative multilayer stent for the treatment of aortic dissection, a life-threatening cardiovascular condition affecting worldwide 300,000 patients annually. The company has secured EUR 18 million in financing with the support of new investors and the Walloon Region. Funds are aimed at clinical studies and product registration purposes.
Dr. Federico Mingozzi is the CSO of Spark Therapeutics, the company behind Luxturna – the world’s first FDA-approved gene therapy for a genetic disease. Though we like to focus on success stories like Luxturna, the reality is that gene therapy is a new modality, and the field is still developing. We spoke to Dr. Mingozzi about some of the technical challenges currently hampering progress in gene therapy, and how people are working together to overcome these hurdles.
Preventing cardiovascular diseases before the first symptoms arise? That’s the ambition of SPINOVIT – a Louvain-La-Neuve company using a new biomarker and innovative technology to achieve its goal. A large clinical trial should be finished in 2023, after which the young company’s product will be launched on the market. In the long term, SPINOVIT’s solution could become part of people’s annual blood check-ups.
Beer, chocolate, and… biotech! When it comes to life sciences, Belgium excels. It consistently ranks as one of the world’s top countries for innovation and R&D. But Belgians are generally a modest bunch: despite being part of a world-class ecosystem, few tend to broadcast that news abroad, or even within our own borders. As a consequence, the Belgian science sector doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. Which is where BioVox comes in!
The microbiome has been a trending scientific topic in recent years. Researchers have uncovered correlations between the human microbiome and a wide range of diseases and health states, ranging from digestive issues to mental wellbeing. But no matter how fascinating these academic findings may be, translating them into concrete clinical applications remains a challenge. How can we enable more efficient clinical valorization of microbiome insights, and pave the way from pattern to patient?
Dr. Monica Bennett is Head of Gene Therapy Unit at Novartis, the company behind the world’s only gene therapy approved for a neurological indication. Zolgensma treats children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic condition where infants with the most severe type rarely survive past their first few years of life. We spoke to Dr. Bennett about her experience working with SMA kids and their families, and the inspiring potential of gene therapy in other neurological diseases.
VIB’s new incubator program biotope fosters early biotech startups looking to impact people’s lives through agrifood innovation. Based in the heart of a flourishing ecosystem, biotope supports young companies looking to de-risk their technology, build a viable business case, and connect with expert scientists, industry leaders, and investors. The aim is to create mutual benefit for both the ecosystem and the entrepreneurs – providing the region with an influx of talent and innovation, and the startup teams with the support and brains they need to grow and succeed.
Dr. Katherine High is one of gene therapy’s pioneers, who has contributed to a long list of firsts in the field. As President of Spark Therapeutics, Dr. High led the team that developed Luxturna ­– the first FDA-approved gene therapy in the world and the first to be approved in both the US and Europe. Prior to that, her trailblazing clinical work with adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors helped paved the way for many subsequent gene therapies. Today, Dr. High continues her cutting-edge work as President of Therapeutics at gene therapy company AskBio, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer AG. We spoke with Dr. High about the evolution of this fascinating field, which has the potential to provide transformational therapies for so many people with otherwise untreatable genetic diseases.