• Date: February 26, 2019

Back in 2015, researchers at the University of Granada began working on a solution to some of the issues surrounding the use of therapeutic proteins. They recognised a need for a medium in which the protein would maintain its structure as well as being administered in a way that is comfortable for the patient. Their project “Protein Crystals in Gels”, led by Luis Álvarez de Cienfuegos, was one of the 15 selected in the 2015 CaixaImpulse programme, with the aim of developing an innovative hydrogel that would facilitate the transportation and administration of therapeutic proteins, while limiting side-effects.

Four years later, the project is operating as a spin-off named Crystalgel S.L., which has taken strides in the development of this technology in a way that has allowed its competitive application to the market.

Luis, who is now the CEO of Crystalgel, explained how the project has evolved as the team of researchers have discovered more about the challenges that exist within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries when working with therapeutic proteins. One such issue is the structural instability of proteins and enzymes, which can present potential complications when being stored, transported and administered for therapeutic purposes. When the project was selected in CaixaImpulse 2015, one of its main goals was to do the necessary research to ensure their technology was able to address these issues in a commercially applicable way.

Immediately following their involvement in CaixaImpulse 2015, they also received funding from EIT Health, both of which allowed the team to consolidate their research, develop their technology, and eventually create their company in 2017. Later that year, they received the best spin-off prize from the VII contest of University Entrepreneurship from the University of Granada.

Having recently incorporated world-renowned specialists in the field of protein stabilisation, the company is now comprised of a panel of experts in all the processes that affect the physicochemical stability of proteins, as well as the methods necessary to improve them. Luis commented, “We are now starting our commercial activity, getting in contact with biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies that need an innovative solution in terms of stability and efficacy of their therapeutic proteins and enzymes, or that need to differentiate technically from their competitors.”

With several projects in the pipeline for 2019 and beyond, their current goal lies in consolidating their company and establishing new collaborations with potential partners in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as attracting investors who are willing to support their technology.

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April 11, 2019

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We spoke to two CaixaImpulse 2018 project leaders, who shared their experiences and tips for the next cohort.