Monoclonals Inc. makes novel monoclonal antibodies for use in the diagnosis of viral diseases. Monoclonal antibodies enable the development of rapid test kits that allow physicians to quickly diagnosis these diseases. Such diagnostic tools are extremely important in the treatment of infectious diseases.
Often described as a “magic bullet,” monoclonal antibodies selectively target disease-causing organisms. The antibodies are used to diagnose the presence of disease-causing organisms, as in rapid test kits, or as vehicles to deliver targeted therapeutics such as drugs, toxins or radioactive isotopes. They are especially important in the treatment of infectious diseases and cancer.
“We are delighted to welcome Monoclonals Inc. to our campus,” said Kevin Strange, MDI Biological Laboratory president. “Maine is seeking to transition to a modern economy based on knowledge and information that will create new, high-paying jobs in science and technology. Monoclonals Inc. is an example of just the kind of biomedical startup that will help the state build a 21st-century economy.”
Monoclonal antibodies are a big business, with the global market expected to reach a value of $138.6 billion by 2024, according to Grand View Research, a market research company. The plans of Christine Soto, founder and CEO of Monoclonals Inc., to tap into this growing market call for the company to employ 10 to 20 scientists in various aspects of monoclonal antibody research and production within two to three years.
Soto decided to relocate Monoclonals Inc. to the MDI Biological Laboratory’s Bar Harbor campus because she was unable to find laboratory incubator space in the mid-Atlantic region that fit her needs. Though empty warehouse space was available, it lacked the laboratory bench space, core laboratory facilities and scientific culture she needs to take her company to the next level.
“I tried everywhere,” she said of her search for incubator space, adding that she located the MDI Biological Laboratory through a Google search.
Soto said she was attracted to the laboratory by its DNA sequencing facility, the availability of animal models such as the zebrafish to use in research associated with the development of her products, the access to scientific expertise offered by the institution’s faculty, the potential opportunities for scientific collaboration and the responsiveness of leadership in addressing her needs.
Soto decided to form Monoclonals Inc. in 2016 after working for years at monoclonal antibody companies. She has worked with antibodies for dozens of diseases, including rabies, multiple sclerosis and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Her company will satisfy a need in the marketplace for reasonably priced custom monoclonal antibodies for diagnostic and therapeutic uses, she said.
The MDI Biological Laboratory has focused in recent years on creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem to nurture innovation in the life sciences by connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need. The focus on entrepreneurship grew out of the recognition that training Maine students in the biomedical sciences – a core mission of the institution – has to go hand in hand with job creation.
Other innovative startups being incubated at the laboratory include Anecdata, a data collection web application for crowd-sourcing data; Coagulation Sciences, a medical device company; RockStep Solutions, a life sciences-based software development startup; and Novo Biosciences, a for-profit spin-off that is developing drug therapies to activate mechanisms that allow damaged and lost tissues and organs to regenerate.