April 14, 2024

Founded in 2018, Cape Bio Pharms (Pty Ltd) is the holding company for the group of Cape Biologix Technologies companies; Cape Biologix Technologies (SA) and Cape Biologix Technologies (MAU).

With its headquarters in Cape Town, South Africa, Cape Bio Pharms drives innovation for the group by conducting product and process research and developing and owning the group’s intellectual property. 

They also provide shared services like Finance, HR, IT, Procurement, etc to their production subsidiaries.

Cape Bio Pharms is a spin-off of the University of Cape Town’s Biopharming Research Unit having spent over two decades expressing proteins in a relative of the tobacco plant. 

Belinda and Tamlyn Shaw, a mother and daughter team, realized the disruptive nature of this expression platform as a perfect solution to contributing to biosecurity for Africa.

Cape Bio Pharms has produced a wide variety of proteins to combat Covid-19 and now has developed a suite of proteins for a neutralizing antibody test kit – one that can test if your vaccine has worked. 

Cape Bio Pharms use a plant-based system to produce proteins very rapidly. It is a technique that allows for proteins to be swapped out and changed easily, leading to short delivery times and improved speed-to-market times for new products.

This platform offers a high speed to market, a low cost, and offers the flexibility to swap out proteins quickly, letting Cape Bio Pharms react to changes in demand a lot faster than traditional systems. 

The key benefit of the platform is that it does not use any animals or animal products, eliminating the risk of the transfer of animal pathogens which is critical when entering the therapeutic or vaccine space.

The production of plant-based biologics has a scientifically proven track record globally and now includes novel therapeutic proteins, antibodies, human and animal vaccines, industrial enzymes, and protein polymers.

Conventional expression systems such as those based on cell cultures, yeast, bacteria, or eggs are exceptionally expensive to set up – between $100m to $500m. 

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Their plant-based system costs a fraction of this and can produce proteins in weeks as opposed to months.

Unlike most traditional systems, plants can produce complex classes of biomolecules that are at the forefront of new drug discoveries driven by the demands of an aging global population and increasing lifestyle diseases.

A Plant-based platform for the production of pharmaceutical and industrial proteins contributes enormously towards skills development and job creation in the biosciences and agri-tech sectors and contributes to the long-term security imperative of producing biologics such as animal and human vaccines.

The company aims to develop a world-class commercial-scale expression platform for the production of a variety of high-value proteins for pharmaceutical and industrial applications – cheaper, faster, safer, and better. 

The big difference is their proteins are made from tobacco. The plant is a weedy cousin of tobacco – called Nicotiana Benthamiana.

Additionally, the company is now expanding its pipeline beyond Covid into critical reagents for the diagnosis of many other infectious diseases, particularly in Africa, and creating proteins to help combat Ebola, Malaria, and HIV that have been neglected in the rush to fight coronavirus.

The company is continuing to research and develop new products, including diagnostics for the veterinary market, exploring orally delivered veterinary vaccines, and helping to build the African pharmaceutical sector. 

How it Works

PtXPro technology

Their core business is plant-molecular pharming of recombinant proteins. Cape Biologix Technologies’ PtXPro technology converts thousands of Nicotiana Benthamiana plants into mini single-use, biodegradable bioreactors.

The plants, a distant cousin of tobacco, are infiltrated with Agrobacterium containing a gene of interest cloned into our plant expression vector that results in high yields of recombinant proteins within the leaves. 

These proteins can be used as research or diagnostic reagents and, under GMP compliance regulations, as therapeutic or vaccine candidates.

Transient plant-based expression platforms provide unique benefits compared to traditional expression systems such as mammalian cell culture systems. 

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The increasing emergence and global spread of infectious diseases brought about by globalization and climate change have made health management around the world more challenging than ever.

These challenges will further exacerbate the already complex fight against zoonotic diseases, disease-bearing vectors, and the spread of circulating pathogens. 

While traditional expression platforms such as mammalian cell culture have brought the life sciences industry to where it is today, alternative systems are required to take it forward into the future. It’s time for the quality, speed, flexibility, scalability, and sustainability of the PtXPro technology to contribute its unique benefits to the health and well-being of people and plants.

Gene Sourcing & Editing

They acquire gene sequences for each specific protein of interest, these are digital sequences of DNA, much like computer code. These gene sequences are then modified in-silico for different applications.

Cloning

Digital DNA is synthesized into physical DNA and cloned into our high-expressing pCBP plant expression vectors.

Bacterial Transformation

Expression vectors containing the gene of interest are inserted into Agrobacterium bacterium

Infiltration

Plants are infiltrated with a solution of transformed bacteria, which have the natural ability to deliver the expression vectors into the cells of plants.

Protein Expression

As soon as the vector has gained entry into the cells, it hijacks the plant’s natural protein-making machinery to produce large amounts of the protein of interest. Each plant can be seen as a ‘mini-bioreactor’. A week after infiltration (times vary with each protein), we harvest the leaves of infected plants.

Purification

They then separate our protein of interest from contaminating native plant proteins using rounds of filtration and chromatography to achieve the highest levels of purity.

Quality Testing

Each batch is subject to stringent quality controls to ensure reproducibility in purity, functionality, and performance.

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Founders

Belinda Shaw

belinda shaw

Belinda Shaw is the current CEO and Founder of Cape Bio Pharms. 

She previously worked at Walk on the Wild Side as a Producer, Editor, and Storyteller.

Belinda Shaw attended Hyde Park High School.

Investors & Funding Rounds

European Investment Bank, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics

Research into plant-based rapid diagnostic Covid-19 test kits, which aim to provide an affordable alternative to developing nations, has been given a major financial boost from Europe to the tune of approximately R900 million. A variety of Nicotiana – commonly referred to as the tobacco plant – forms part of the clinical trials being carried out by Cape Bio Pharms.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), and local funding initiatives recently pumped almost R900 million into Cape Bio Pharmsto further Covid-19 antigen and antibody research. 

The EIB funding, which accounts for 70% of the total project cost, will be used to open a new Covid-19 research facility, operated by Cape Biologix Technologies, a subsidiary of Cape Bio Pharms, in Mauritius.

Funding from FIND, which covers a further 7% of the project costs, will be used to scale up the pilot production program while the remaining costs have been covered by the kENUP Foundation and South Africa’s University Technology Fund (UTF) among others.

The Mauritius facility will feature laboratories, processing plants, and climate controlled hydroponic grow rooms to provide stable plant-made proteins to combat Covid-19. 

Main Competitors

Pond: This is a biotech company that designs sustainable solutions of tomorrow with the use of bio-based resins ready to be mixed with natural fibers.

Shenandoah Biotechnology: It is a biotech company that manufactures recombinant proteins for research.

Halo Labs: This is a biotechnology company that specializes in analytical instrumentation and biopharma.

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