Houston, Texas, and Huntsville, Alabama have served as epicenters of innovation for decades, partnering to push boundaries, upend limitations, and put mankind on the moon. In a strategic new alignment, Van Heron Labs, a startup formed in Houston, will begin working alongside Huntsville’s Foresight Biosciences to continue the tradition.
Both company’s current founders, leadership, and support teams are dominated by Texas and Alabama natives with many current and former students of state institutions (Auburn, U.A.H., U.A.B., U.H., Rice, U.T., U.T. Health, W.T.A.M.U., T.A.M.U.). Van Heron Labs is also named in honor of the late James Van Heron, a widely admired Alabama native holding several microbiology degrees from Auburn University. Together, the two southern companies will take aim at surpassing the boundaries in a burgeoning field: biotechnology.
Foresight Biosciences are leaders in glycoscience and enzymatic assay development. Their innovative technologies advance glycobiology research and improve the production of glycoprotein therapeutics. The current production of biologics is not only complex and costly, but also plagued with common issues, e.g. high immunogenicity, poor shelf-life, which hinder protein-based drug development. Foresight’s proprietary platform revolutionizes therapeutic protein production to yield higher quality biologics by inducing protein modifications necessary to create more effective human biopharmaceutical therapies. Foresight, aptly named, has also positioned themselves to continue applying their dynamic platform and broad interests to advance our understanding in fields ranging from the metabolic basis of human disease, to microbial ecology and evolution, to human stem cell research, and even agriculture; complemented by the on-going work of Van Heron Labs.
Van Heron’s mission is to reframe our understanding of organismal and cellular performance. They have created a novel pipeline that uses genetic analysis to design a customized procedure for optimizing metabolism for a particular organism or cell, maximizing growth and product output. A completely bootstrapped company, Van Heron Labs is primed to explode on the biotechnology scene due to the versatility of its technology. Their platform has the potential for astounding flexibility, ranging from increasing the production of valuable cellular products, to directly selecting for organisms in complex nutritional environments, to even other more niche applications spanning nearly every industrial, medical, and research sector. Van Heron Labs has yet to decide what they will disrupt first. However, they feel confident that the mentorship and opportunities that will come from pairing with an experienced company such as Foresight will prove to be a priceless advantage.
The strength of this partnership’s lies not only in the two companies’ shared multi-disciplinary vision for the future, but also in the complementarity of their two technological platforms. Foresight, like many companies who utilize cellular products, relies on the fidelity of the culture media they use. While industry standards for culture media have largely stagnated of late, Van Heron Labs aims to enhance standard media with their customized formulas that robustly increase a cell’s capabilities and therefore the quality of high-value cellular products. This provides the perfect opportunity for Van Heron Labs to add substantial value for Foresight, while simultaneously demonstrating viability at industry scale. The partnership offers mutual benefits for both companies and the field of biologic production as a whole.
As of now, prospective collaborative projects will be dynamic and will aim to impact and ameliorate fields like drug and enzyme discovery, development and production as well as industrial fermentation, bioremediation, cell culture, and beyond. Both companies are currently using their platforms to develop technology to help battle COVID-19. In anticipation of continuing collaborative work with Foresight, Van Heron Labs plans to move a significant portion of their laboratory operations from the Texas Medical Center in Houston to the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology located in Huntsville, Alabama this month. However, VHL also plans to maintain a strong presence and activism within the Houston entrepreneurial ecosystem, which the company cites as the catalyst for the birth and growth of the company. Van Heron Labs hopes that this will be the first of many collaborations between Huntsville and Houston the two cities spearhead the growing life-science entrepreneurship movement in the southern U.S.
To read more about HudsonAlpha’s mission and vision, as well as the innovative work being done on the campus, please visit https://hudsonalpha.org/.
About Foresight Biosciences: Foresight Biosciences provides technology for glycobiology research with an emphasis on creating tools and in vitro technologies to advance protein-based drug development. We are focused on providing benchtop assays for glycoprotein fingerprint analysis, enzymes and convenient kits for identifying, repairing, and modifying protein glycosylation. In addition to our current product portfolio, we are working to develop recombinant expression systems that yield products with human-like surface glycosylations. The end goal is to improve treatments and ultimately prevent human diseases.
About Van Heron Labs: VHL is a platform technology service that uses a proprietary pipeline to determine the nutrient substrates needed for optimal biosynthesis and growth across organisms and cell types. The one-of-a-kind technology can be deployed for virtually any application which involves or harnesses living cells or bio-matter. VHL is currently focused on addressing speed and scale challenges, particularly for the production of key bio-products. VHL’s platform can be leveraged as a competitive advantage for microbial or cell culture, the production of biologic drugs, enzymes, and other high-value natural or recombinant products.