Enantis: Reengineering proteins and business models
In the month of March when women’s rights are celebrated all around the world, we give spotlight to Enantis, a successful female-led startup specialised in protein engineering with the vision to create a healthier and more sustainable future.
Founded in 2006 in Brno, Czech Republic, as the first biotechnology spin-off from Masaryk University, Enantis was one of the first startups to establish their business at EU|BIC JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) in 2008. Since then, JIC has played an instrumental role in the startup’s growth and international outreach.
Enantis was founded to commercially exploit the results of university research working with enzymes. At that time, there were only two patented technologies that dealt with industrial applications of dehalogenase enzymes (an enzyme that catalyses the removal of a halogen atom from a substrate), so the team wanted to explore this scientific niche and its potential for commercialisation.
Since proteins are usually very unstable molecules, their industrial use is still limited. In cooperation with academic research groups, the Enantis team worked hard to stabilise the enzymes, strengthening their expertise in protein engineering. Unfortunately, it turned out that the technologies based on degrading the toxic compounds were not interesting enough for the market in order to generate sufficient capital at that point, so Enantis had to rethink how they could capitalise on the existing expertise in protein engineering.
Founded by two academics with mainly scientific background, Enantis needed the right business mindset with the same scientific background to help them restart the business after the initial failure to address the market needs. Veronika Stepankova, who later became Enantis’ CEO, was a PhD student when she was first introduced to the startup. She participated in their research academic groups, so she was familiar with the problem they were facing from the very beginning. Her scientific expertise coupled with the business mindset was noticed, so she took over management of the startup upon graduation in 2013. Together with the team, Veronika shifted the company in another direction – instead of the environmental, Enantis started focusing on the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry with much greater success.
EBN Member JIC has also played a vital role in the startup’s success – after two years of running the startup in the university labs, the team moved its business operations to JIC, which enabled them to grow and develop their business further.
Driven by Veronika and with the help of JIC, Enantis revised their original business model and started identifying commercially attractive unstable molecules stabilising and improving them radically, while addressing unmet needs across several industries including biotechnology, healthcare, as well as agriculture and food industry sector.
“JIC experts helped us design our first business model. They were with us when we found out that it has no bright future and we had to change the business model,” said Veronika Stepankova, Enantis’ CEO.
Enantis develops its own stabilised proteins and enzymes while providing a unique service platform for protein engineering and design. Their most promising product to date is hyperstable (FGF2-STAB) molecule, which could soon be distributed to stem cell scientists all around the world. At the same time, the team is constantly testing the molecule’s therapeutic and healing potential in the pharmaceutical industry.
How has JIC supported Enantis?
Besides helping them in their strategy shift, JIC helped the startup identify the most suitable funding resources introducing them to the SME Instrument. Enantis applied successfully for SME Instrument phase 1, and the phase 2 is currently being implemented, making them the only Czech company to receive funding under both phases of the SME Instrument funding. (See the cut-off dates for SME Instrument funding (2018-2020) and EBN and EBN Members’ representation at the SME Instrument judging panel at European Innovation Council.)
Another example of cooperation with JIC is the programme PLATINN – regional coaching scheme matching companies with experienced mentors based on the companies’ needs. Thanks to the programme, Enantis has been cooperating with JIC’s experts in the fields of strategic investment, market analysis, brand management and visual identity.
EBN Member since 2003 and EU|BIC since 2013, JIC has played an important role in EBN activities and even its strategy development –David Uhlir, JIC’s Deputy Director, has been representing Czech BICs on the EBN Board since 2013, becoming EBN’s Vice President in 2016. With its four main programmes (JIC ENTER, JIC STARCUBE, JIC MASTER, and JIC PLATINN, ) JIC addresses needs of entrepreneurs at any stage, enabling the creation of skilled jobs and a competitive business environment in South Moravia (Czech Republic).
Veronika Stepankova, Enantis’ CEO, about JIC: “JIC has been helping Enantis to grow and prosper since the very beginning.”
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