What is wrong with the current method of manufacturing medicines?

Most plant-derived medicines, especially the ones without a synthetic chemistry process, rely on crop-based manufacturing processes and supply chains. This results in a system that is unpredictable, fragmented, and fragile. For example, active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturers currently have to estimate demands 2+ years ahead of time (i.e., from initiating planting), leaving no flexibility to respond to sudden demand changes. In addition, growing plants in the field lacks robust controls, which can result in batch-to-batch variability that causes complexity for further downstream processing.

How does fermentation work and how can you use it to make medicines?

Our platform starts with uncovering DNA information from diverse organisms, which encode the blueprint for how medicinal small molecules are produced using nature’s biosynthesis processes. We apply synthetic biology tools to re-code these natural DNA to allow functionality in brewer’s yeast - building a “molecular factory assembly line” in yeast to produce desired medicinal molecules. Finally, we grow our best engineered strains in fermenters where the yeast act to convert simple starting materials, like sugar and amino acids, to targeted medicinal compounds.

What are the benefits to using fermentation?

Yeast fermentation is a more sustainable, environmentally friendly process than traditional approaches that rely on extraction of medicinal compounds from plants. Many medicinal plants are rare and grow in particular climates, which leads to overharvesting and loss of irreplaceable biodiversity. In addition, farming of medicinal plants uses substantially more resources, such as arable land, water, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, than yeast-based fermentation.

With all of the challenges associated with analgesic misuse and abuse in the United States, why are these medicines part of our platform?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), analgesics are listed as an Essential Medicine. A spectrum of pain management medications exist, from NSAIDs to opioids, all of which carry unique risks when used long-term. However, pain management is an essential and effective clinical tool for alleviating patient suffering due to chronic and acute medical conditions.

For example, the majority of cancer patients experience severe pain in going through effective treatment regimens, and analgesics are critical to help complete their treatment cycle. The COVID-19 health crisis has also recently underscored the life-saving role of these medicines, as placing and keeping patients on ventilators require pain management with analgesics.

As a company, we are committed to healing people and improving the quality of healthcare. Antheia strives to leverage synthetic biology to find a better way to sustainably and ethically produce the medicinal materials that can be used for medically essential pain medicines, treatments of opioid addiction, and a wide range of other natural products, including antibiotics, antitussives, chemotherapeutics, and neurotransmitter inhibitors.