Altis Biosystems Offers Research Award for Use of Its RepliGut Platform
Durham-based Altis Biosystems is offering a research award of up to $10,000 for a scientific team to use its proprietary drug-development technology in a research project.
Altis is soliciting proposals from company and academic scientists to use RepliGut, its patented platform that replicates the intestinal epithelium, the thin layer of cells that line the small and large intestines and are vital to good health.
“Altis has always been at the forefront of innovative and more-biologically relevant research to enable the development of more effective drugs,” said Michael Biron, the company’s chief executive officer. “We view this research award as a way to further this development with partners to produce meaningful and informative scientific experiments to advance their pipelines.”
The use of RepliGut will also help Altis gather feedback on the technology to help broaden its applications, said Niki Heinz, director of business development at Altis.
“We have this really unique technology,” Heinz said. “As many brains as we can have working on this in terms of what people want to do with it, the better.”
Interested researchers working in drug discovery, safety, immunology, and inflammation can propose a project with RepliGut by completing a form on the company’s website by Nov. 15. A project will be chosen by Dec. 10, and work will get under way by Jan. 15, 2022.
Potential applicants can gather more information about RepliGut by viewing an Oct. 12 webinar featuring Bill Thelin, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Altis. Thelin will address how “intestine-on-a-chip” technology can reliably model gastrointestinal disease and help researchers screen for safe, effective therapeutic candidates.
RepliGut recreates the human intestinal epithelium in a high-throughput format for more biologically relevant screening of compounds, disease modeling and microbiome research.
Altis sells RepliGut as a kit and also provides a variety of contract research services for customers involving inflammation, barrier function, toxicology and drug disposition.
Intestinal stem cells used for the RepliGut system are harvested from transplant-grade human donor tissue for which there is no recipient match. Compounds and other cell types interact with the epithelial cells in a multi-well plate format that allows for high-throughput screening and integration with standard laboratory equipment and workflows.
With this design, RepliGut can model different behaviors in the intestine, such as the barrier function, more accurately than typical methods that use cancer cell lines or animal models.
The company’s goal for RepliGut is to reduce the time and cost of drug development with a platform that more closely represents native human biology and to reduce the need for animal testing.
RepliGut’s core use is for screening drug compounds, but its utility is expanding to include gene expression and other downstream assays, Heinz said. Altis this summer hired Thelin as chief scientific officer to help broaden the platform’s capacity.
The RepliGut technology was developed in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Altis was formed in 2017 to commercialize it.
Last August Altis raised $3.1 million in a seed series investment that was oversubscribed by nearly 50 percent. The round was led by VentureSouth of Greenville, S.C., and also involved local investors including RTP Capital and Hatteras Ventures, as well as other syndicate partners across the country including Atlanta Technology Angels and Central Texas Angel Network.
Altis declined to disclose its employment total but is adding staff to further develop RepliGut.
“We have been hiring for the last month or so and continue to look for talent,” Heinz said.
The company recently hired several scientists to keep up with customer projects and now is looking for a senior director of operations. It will be seeking additional scientists in the next couple of months, she said, as the company looks to expand its offerings to the research community.