NaturalAntibody: Oxford scientist joins forces with Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder to revolutionise the process of drug manufacturing

7 minutes
Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder is investing in the revolution in the pharma industry. The fund joined forces with the world-class expert in the field of bioinformatic antibody analysis, Dr. Konrad Krawczyk. Together, they created NaturalAntibody, a company offering bioinformatic solutions that allow to significantly reduce the costs and accelerate the process of bringing antibody-based drugs to the market. The company’s products are already used by AstraZeneca, among others.
  • The process of drug discovery and development currently takes around ten years on average. NaturalAntibody, a Polish bioinformatics startup, has found a way to accelerate it significantly.
  • The company discovers and optimizes antibodies that may be used as drugs with the help of proprietary machine learning algorithms and data on therapeutic antibodies collected by pharmaceutical companies over the course of the last 40 years, the potential of which had never been tapped into before.
  • NaturalAntibody products are unique on a global scale. They are already used by major global pharmaceutical firms, such as AstraZeneca, as well as biotechnology companies, including GV20 and Antiverse.
  • The startup was founded by Dr. Konrad Krawczyk, an expert in the field of bioinformatic antibody analysis, and Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder, which invested in the project via its venture building model. The company also raised more than PLN 3 mln from private investors.

NaturalAntibody helps IT-engineer therapeutic antibodies by discovering and optimizing those that may be used as drugs. To this end, it uses a proprietary database of previously neglected data on therapeutic antibodies together with custom-made machine learning algorithms that predict their behaviour in contact with antigens and recognize therapeutic properties. 

This method allows accelerating the process of drug discovery and development which currently takes on average around ten years. The molecules identified by NaturalAntibody are used in drug development in oncology as well as in the treatment of other diseases, such as autoimmune diseases.

“Therapeutic antibodies are the equivalent of ones that are naturally produced by the human body to fight diseases and infections. For years, their production has been one of the main methods of developing drugs, but – until recently – it was based on laborious and time-consuming experimental procedures. Our solutions allow to significantly accelerate this process and, as a result, cut down on the time required to develop and bring a new drug to the market. – explains Dr. Konrad Krawczyk, a leading expert in the field of bioinformatic antibody analysis and co-founder of the startup.

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New life to old data

The idea came to Dr. Krawczyk while he analysed data collected by pharmaceutical companies in R&D projects for scientific research conducted at the University of Oxford. He noticed that vast amounts of precious data on therapeutic antibodies that were not key for pharmaceutical research remained unused. 

“I realized that as scientists around the world spend years researching therapeutic antibodies to develop new medication, dozens of potential drugs are within our reach just by applying appropriate tools to the information we already have. 

I decided to change that and created the Antibody Knowledge Graph, the world’s largest data bank that automatically collects and integrates information on the detailed structure of antibodies, their ability to connect with other molecules, and biophysical features, collected by the scientific community in the last 40 years of research. It facilitates the work on medicinal products.” – says Dr. Krawczyk.

The company designed analytical modules based on advanced machine learning algorithms that use the collected data to predict the behaviour of antibodies in contact with antigens and identify ones that have good therapeutic properties. This solution reduces the number of experimental trials, offering massive savings of resources and significantly accelerating the drug development process. The company has just brought its products to the global market.

Bringing bioinformatics up to speed with technology

“Increasingly, the leaders of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology market see the value of being able to make decisions based on extensive, qualitative, and properly compiled data. The tools we offer allow taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by modern bioinformatics.” – says NaturalAntibody’s co-founder, Michał Krawczyk, a serial entrepreneur and founder of a leading Polish crowdfunding website

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Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder recognised the potential of the tools developed by the Oxford scientist and invested in it via its venture building model, becoming the startup’s co-founder. The fund’s team actively assists NaturalAntibody in the company’s development, providing technological competencies, strategic and operational expertise, and support in HR & recruitment. 

“We combined world-class scientific acumen with top venture-building capabilities and will continue to support NaturalAntibody’s technological and commercial growth by advising founders on strategic issues and supporting its operational management. The company’s proposal is unique on a global scale and our client roster is growing quickly: in the upcoming months we will implement our software across businesses from the US and the UK.” – says Kamil Sabatowski, vice president of the management board in the company. He is involved in the startup’s development on behalf of Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder and assisted the team in raising additional seed financing from private investors. 

The company raised over PLN 3 mln from private investors. The capital will be spent on the enhancement of the R&D team, as well as further development of algorithms to enable increasingly precise antibody engineering. The goal is to create a tool for designing antibodies that meet the exact therapeutic needs of patients.

“NaturalAntibody has anticipated the expectations and needs of pharmaceutical companies. We aim to maintain this rapid pace of development and introduce products to the market. We will also design solutions approaching artificial intelligence further.” – adds Michał Wrzołek, Senior Investment Director at Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder involved in the project.