16 July 2023 Elizabeth Tan

GlycoNet and PanTHERA CryoSolutions’ Journey: From Bench to Bedside

PanTHERA CryoSolutions is a Canadian corporation that designs and manufactures cryopreservation solutions for cells, tissues and organs for research and clinical markets. PanTHERA’s patented ice recrystallization inhibitor (IRI) technology exceeds commercial cryopreservation media by providing superior cryoprotection resulting in an increase in post-thaw cell recovery and function for customers. The technology enables the use of less costly, liquid nitrogen vapour-free storage and transportation systems for some cell therapy applications.

From innovative startups, transformative solutions to supportive industry and academic partners , Canada’s innovation and startup ecosystem brings together a network of partners from all around the world. According to the Startup Genome Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020, Canada ranks 5th in the world for start-up density, with 41.1 start-ups per 100,000 people. Despite the growth and potential of the Canadian start-up ecosystem, there are challenges that start-ups face, such as access to funding, talent retention and regulatory barriers. However, a broad commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship from governments, post-secondary institutions and industry helps address the challenges. Collaborations between the startups, their respective industries and academic partners provide invaluable opportunities to network, connect, and develop solutions to unmet needs.

An example of the commitment to the Canadian start-up ecosystem is GlycoNet (Canadian Glycomics Network), a community of more than 190 research groups with over 280 industry and academic partners. Specializing in glycomics-based health solutions, GlycoNet is a federally funded collaborative network that brings together researchers across Canada to develop new glycan-based diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies for a range of diseases and health issues. GlycoNet builds on the expertise of glycomics researchers and trainees, government laboratories and industry partners to address key challenges that affect human, animal, and environmental health. By providing funding and support to fuel new discoveries and spark innovative start-ups such as PanTHERA CryoSolutions, GlycoNet is accelerating the growth of promising start-ups and bolstering the start-up ecosystem within Canada.

“Investing in glycomics research and commercialization ensures that Canada reaps the full benefits for better health while building a more diverse bioeconomy,” says Dr. Elizabeth Nanak, CEO of GlycoNet. “PanTHERA’s breakthrough technology and growth as a company show how collaboration and investment in glycomics can support homegrown companies and made-in-Canada solutions.”

PanTHERA CryoSolutions’ founders first came to GlycoNet in September 2016 with the innovative idea of developing carbohydrate-based cryoprotectants that mimic natural antifreeze compounds. These two researchers, Dr. Jason Acker from the University of Alberta, and Dr. Robert Ben from the University of Ottawa were successful in receiving a Catalyst grant from GlycoNet to develop the first generation IRI compounds. In September 2017, PanTHERA CryoSolutions was incorporated and received another start-up grant from GlycoNet to support company expansion. Launching a start-up is exciting but growing a start-up remains a challenge for many. The support from numerous organizations, including GlycoNet, goes a long way in making a difference.

The partnership between GlycoNet and PanTHERA CryoSolutions, in collaboration with the NRC, saw the strategic goals of expanding product manufacturing begin in 2019 . PanTHERA then went on to receive another grant for legal and business strategy from GlycoNet. The funding that GlycoNet has provided, which amounted to  $450,000 has been an important catalyst with which PanTHERA CryoSolutions was able to produce a revolutionary product that will address the issues that hamper growth in the cell and gene therapy industry.

Dr. Jason Acker, CEO and Co-Founder of PanTHERA CryoSolutions notes that ‘PanTHERA CryoSolutions would not be where it is today without the support from those who believed in the passion and idea we had to improve the cryopreservation of cell-based therapeutics. Indeed we owe it to them for helping us get this far with our product development and the commercialization of our IRI technology.’

Beyond funding, GlycoNet provided support that catered to PanTHERA’s stage of growth, and grew the Canadian bioeconomy by nurturing an innovation system that addresses Canada’s One Health and Sustainable Development Goals. PanTHERA CryoSolutions is one of the key successes that leveraged the strong entrepreneurship ecosystem coupled with the world-class research capabilities to address challenges and contribute to keeping talent within the Canada biotech industry.

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