Team:UIUC Illinois/project-overview



Executive Summary

The Company

Illinois Synth was formed in June 2012 to develop, market, and license products intended to further the progress of synthetic biology. Our founding team is comprised of six University of Illinois undergraduate students from a variety of backgrounds including bioengineering, biochemistry, molecular biology, agricultural engineering and chemical engineering. Brought together initially by the desire to work with synthetic biology in the context of the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition, we are now in the process of commercializing our research.

The Products

The two product lines being developed by Illinois Synth are as follows:

The Market

Ever since the discovery of restriction enzymes in 1978, a new era of synthetic biology was ushered in, an era in which scientific discovery would meet engineering, and promised the ability to eventually control and modulate gene expression. Illinois Synth has a deep confidence not only in the growth of synthetic biology as an industry, but in the growing demand for technologies that will allow the modulation of gene expression in RNA. Such tools currently take the form of RNA recognition motifs, K Homology proteins, and CCCH Zinc Finger proteins that in many cases do not exhibit sequence specific binding, or are unable to be programmed to recognize specific, desired ssRNA sequences. With regard to the use of an in vivo enzymatic cascade to produce piceatannol, our analysis has shown that such a method would be faster, more efficient, and lower cost than chemical synthesis of the compound, which is the only current mode of production.

Competitive Analysis

Our competitive analysis was broken into two components:

Analysis of alternative ways to bind to RNA yielded protein domains that are not as site specific as the PUF domain (8 nucleotide sequence specificity), and/or are uncustomizable whereas PUF can be programmed to recognize a desired ssRNA sequence while being tethered to a functional domain such as an endonuclease.

Chemical synthesis is the only current mode of production of piceatannol, and has proven to be expensive due to the inefficiency of the chemical process. Tocris Bioscience, in particular, has a base rate of $19/mg of piceatannol. Additionally, instead of competing directly with large pharmaceutical companies to produce piceatannol at a low cost, we intend to license our technology to companies interested in using our RNA scaffold.

Value Proposition

Our GEM Toolkit will provide an extremely novel, and efficient way to regulate and modulate gene expression in ssRNA. We expect such a toolkit to provide a high degree of utility to researchers interested in varying gene expression levels. Additionally, we believe IOPiC will provide a low cost, biological alternative to achieve the production of piceatannol without involving expensive chemical processes.

Marketing and Sales Plan

Illinois Synth will adopt a two-step marketing plan for its GEM Toolkit and IOPiC technologies. It involves the systematic dissemination of our technologies to academic and research institutions at highly discounted rates, followed by the targeted selection of pharmaceutical companies and chemical manufacturers with our final full-price products. The specifics of the marketing strategy, including online marketing are detailed throughout the plan.

Management and Organization

Illinois Synth’s management board brings with it the ability to raise venture capital, make necessary contacts with representatives from academia and industry, and develop our products methodically through cutting-edge research and development. The board members come from a variety of scientific and engineering backgrounds, and also have the business development experience to set up the necessary infrastructure for Illinois Synth. In addition to the management board, Illinois Synth is advised by an advisory board that represents an exceptional set of professors, graduate students, and researchers from the University of Illinois. Resumes for management board members can be found in the Appendix.

Financial Summary

Illinois Synth will rely on equity financing, product sales, contract manufacturing, corporate partnerships, and interest income to fund its operations and capital expenditures. Negative cash flow due to research and development of the two product lines is expected to continue for a minimum of 15 months, through the first quarter of 2014. Due to the possible need for additional funds to expand product development, sales, and marketing capabilities, other sources of capital such as venture and angel investments will be explored. Future capital requirements will depend on a variety of factors, including:

Investor Summary


Elevator Pitch

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