Pictured: SpeedDx and SynGenis teams meet in Perth to discuss Oligo supply.
A new partnership between Perth-based oligonucleotides manufacturer SynGenis and Sydney-based diagnostic company SpeeDx has led to an investment and collaboration between the two companies.
SpeeDx is a privately owned company that specialises in innovative multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) solutions for clinical diagnostics. The Sydney-based organisation has a portfolio of kits for detection of infectious disease pathogens and antimicrobial resistance markers, including COVID-19.
In the wake of the pandemic, demand rose for diagnostics along the supply chain, but SpeeDx faced constrained supply of oligonucleotides (oligo) which are a critical component of their diagnostic kits. Oligonucleotides are molecules, oligomers, that have a wide range of applications in genetic testing, research, and forensics. When Australia's last oligo manufacturer closed its doors in late 2019, the company was forced to look to overseas manufacturing facilities for supply.
"[We were] totally reliant on overseas production suppliers, and suppliers that the rest of the world were reliant on. It seems that everyone was scaling up at the exact same time," SpeeDx Chief Executive Officer Colin Denver said.
"Oligo lead times from the overseas suppliers were up to a year for more complex molecules. A typical lead time before COVID was a month," SpeeDx Director of Operations Tom Lin added.
Perth start-up SynGenis was established in late 2020 by Professor Rakesh Veedu, who had run the oligonucleotide synthesis service out of the Murdoch University campus in Western Australia. The company operates a large facility in Bentley Technology Park to manufacture high quality oligonucleotides for the Australian and New Zealand market, and international customers.
In early 2021, MTPConnect Directors of Stakeholder Engagement (WA and NSW, respectively), Dr Tracey Wilkinson and Dr Duncan Macinnis organised an introduction between the two organisations, having recognised synergies in their activities.
"When I heard about SynGenis, it seemed like a great fit for SpeeDx - their values and commercial needs aligned," Dr Macinnis said. "The success of their collaboration is indicative of the many opportunities that the MTP sector has to connect stakeholders across all geographical and interest areas, building our industries' expertise and capability as 'Team Australia'."
Within five days of MTPConnect setting up the first introductory meeting, SynGenis had sent SpeeDx a shipment of oligos for a supplier assessment - a record supply time! This initial partnership allowed SpeeDx to meet an obligation to a large overseas customer and set the foundation for a longer-term collaboration.
Dr Wilkinson believes that the pandemic has reaffirmed the importance and value of MTPConnect's nation-wide team in assisting collaboration and commercialisation efforts across the sector, regardless of geographic distance.
"This successful partnership is a great illustration of how combining our on-the-ground awareness and local knowledge of the sector within MTPConnect's national team can identify opportunities for collaboration. Without strong communication and strategic connections across the country, the sector risks missing opportunities like this - opportunities that then head overseas, which is not ideal for suppliers, customers, patients, or the economy and jobs," Dr Wilkinson said.
The ability to solve domestic challenges with domestic solutions has proven to be an effective way to combat supply resilience issues and enables potential expansion in domestic and international markets in the future. SynGenis and SpeeDx are both excited to see where those future opportunities take them, after SpeeDx announced an investment in SynGenis in October.
What started as an exploratory introduction between two companies has led to a financial investment that will support the expansion of SynGenis to provide reliable, high quality large-scale oligos and bolster the capacity of SpeeDx to support large-scale increases in manufacturing.
"Moving forward, it's exciting to be increasing local capacity at a time when we really had no local options. Having our two companies aligned means we can better respond to Australian and international commercial demands," Tom Lin said.
"It is an absolute pleasure that we have this partnership now, which is based in Australia, and manufactured in Australia, and supplied in Australia," said SynGenis Founder and Managing Director Associate Professor Rakesh Veedu.
MTPConnect's matchmaking means SpeeDx and Syngenis can now develop and expand the sovereign capacity of important raw materials used in molecular diagnostics and also expand efforts in the global diagnostic market.
Excitingly, WA is already seeing benefits from this local manufacturing capability. The DNA manufactured by SynGenis is incorporated into COVID diagnostics by SpeeDx that are then returning to WA to help WA Health manage the pandemic, and will become increasingly important as the state’s border restrictions ease.
NB: SpeeDx is a Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) program Round 1 recipient, seeking to commercialise its ResistancePlusÂ® MABSC/MAC test, a rapid in vitro diagnostic tool to accurately and quickly identify bacterial infections related to Cystic Fibrosis, while using gene markers to predict antibiotic susceptibility or resistance.