Nanopareil LLC, a biopharma startup based in South Dakota, was recently acquired by Gamma Biosciences, a life sciences tools platform. The acquisition will accelerate Nanopareil in the development and marketing of their product—an advanced purification method for monoclonal antibodies and other next-generation biopharmaceuticals.
Nanopareil has patented a nanofiber-based purification membrane for use in biopharmaceutical processing.
The company’s co-founder, Dr. Todd J. Menkhaus, previously worked in biopharmaceutical production, and he brought with him an awareness of the challenges the industry faced, including slow processing times, expensive equipment, and maintaining cleanliness and sanitation.
In recent years, the production of antibodies has improved dramatically which, though positive overall, exacerbates the challenge of keeping up with purification. Typically, pharmaceuticals go through a purification system that utilizes resin beads. However, as processing has sped up, the resin beads have reached their functional limits.
Nanopareil’s chief operating officer, Craig Arnold, explains that the company’s patented nanofibers provide increased surface area—a must when it comes to efficiency.
“The solution lies in increasing surface area, so a new form factor was required. We took the approach of creating nanofibers, which are very small fibers in a non-woven, random, overlay design,” he said. “It’s kind of like a bowl of spaghetti in some ways, with these very high-contact areas. They’re also very porous as well so we can dramatically increase the flow and bind more of the target in each batch, allowing the drug producer to process more product in the same amount of time.”
The technology offers significant performance advantages compared with conventional chromatography resins as well as similar, non-resin-based separation technologies.
As of now, there is no other solution on the market like it, and that singularity is reflected in the company’s name as well.
Back in 2010, the company was formed as Nanofiber Separations, LLC.
“That’s very much an engineer’s approach to naming a business, however, we discovered other start-ups with similar names, and we worked through a series of company names that would differentiate ourselves from other companies with similar names,” Arnold said.
In 2018, they trademarked Nanopareil—a play on the French word, nonpareil, meaning “unparalleled” or “without equal.”
What does the acquisition mean for Nanopareil?
The acquisition was finalized in late September, and it came about after a year of discussions and proposals from industry leading companies interested in next generation bioprocessing technologies.
“We went to the Bioprocessing International Conference in September 2019, and while there, we were approached by a number of different companies who were interested in us,” Arnold said.
The team at Nanopareil spent the next year focused on the prospect of acquisition, discussing it internally, meeting with different companies, and conducting self-evaluations.
“When we did a self-assessment of what we were good at, it really got down to the materials, science, development, and optimization of the technology,” Arnold said. “We had the material side down, but South Dakota is a long way from where most of the country’s bioprocessing takes place. We knew we needed to add significant marketing and customer facing experience and expertise to the company to make us a competitive business, and we specifically set out to find a partners of those who had spent years in the industry.”
“When we were talking with Gamma it seemed they had everything we were looking for,” Arnold said. “We feared getting lost in a large bioprocessing company where we would just be one of many initiatives. We wanted our nanotechnologies to be at the center of the strategy, and that’s what we found with Gamma. Our technology is a very nice fit with their next generation bioprocessing business strategy.”
Nanopareil will be one of several portfolio companies under Gamma’s existing subsidiary, Astrea Bioseparations, where we will continue to advance the development of our development of next-generation, downstream purification for biopharmaceuticals and advanced therapies.
Gamma will continue to invest in productization and technology development, as well as application development and customer support as it establishes Nanopareil as a key platform within Astrea’s growing range of products.
Nanopareil as a South Dakota company
Though the acquisition by California-based Gamma significantly expands Nanopareil’s reach, the company plans to maintain its research and development in it’s South Dakota based innovation center that is headed up by Dr. Menkhaus.
Originally founded on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT), Nanopareil has offices and laboratories in both the Black Hills and Sioux Falls. In fact, one of their wet labs is right here on the Zeal campus.
“We feel welcome here in South Dakota,” Arnold said. “We really feel that people are reaching out to us with their support, and they always have, as a matter of fact. We can thrive here with the great startup ecosystem around the School of Mines, and we feel the same support in Sioux Falls. Even the governor has reached out to us, and we’re very excited to have her aware of this little startup company and offering her support to help us grow.”
Nanopareil currently has 8 employees, and they are working closely with Gamma and Astrea to bring more people on board on both in product development and commercial scale-up.
“South Dakota is a great place to live and work, and I think that, along with our connections to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota Biotech and the growing start-up ecosystem, helps us attract great employees with the necessary skill sets who are interested in developing cutting-edge technologies while enjoying all that the state has to offer,” Arnold said.
Nanopareil operates out of their development laboratory at the Ascent Innovation Center in Rapid City, where they work on optimization, scaling, and productization. At their lab here at Zeal, they focus on surface functionalization of the materials.
Arnold emphasizes the benefits of doing business in South Dakota.
“There’s a very supportive state government that is encouraging hi-tech growth—they’re there to help, not tell you how to run your business. And the state’s economy is built on entrepreneurism, which makes is easier to engage in conversations and access resources, of course the tax structure is helpful.” Arnold said. “Bottom line, with the focus on high-technology and bio-entrepreneurialism, it’s easy to get things done across the entire state.”
For more information about Nanopareil, please visit www.nanopareil.com.