"We teach bacteria and yeast to do what they naturally can't"
EXPLOGEN is a small biotech company launched in Lviv in 2019 engaged in bacteria and yeast genomic and metabolic engineering. They design and construct microbial strains to meet customers’ needs. They also have internal projects that focus on finding and studying new biologically active natural products, mainly antibiotics and agricultural chemicals of bacterial origin.
The company was founded by local investors who believe in the prospects of modern biotechnology in Ukraine. They undertook this venturous attempt to start a research-intensive biotech company in Lviv with the idea that such a company would contribute to positive changes in Ukrainian science and society.
"We aim to provide access to modern genetics, genomics and molecular biology services, instruments and tools for the Ukrainian scientific community and biotechnological and pharmacological businesses," said Explogen's chief science officer Yuriy Rebets.
"Joining Explogen was a new challenge for me. I was wondering if a research-oriented company could be run in Ukraine efficiently. And, so far, my answer to this question is yes - it's difficult but possible. The obvious key to success is building a team of people who share a passion for biology and who are not afraid to learn and do something new," he said.
The company currently has seven employees. Yuriy, like other senior staff, spent many years working abroad.
They also recruited two PhD and master's students from local universities.
"We are looking for young people who want to do their diploma projects at Explogen’s facility and within the scope of our internal projects," said Yuriy. " We know that education is the key to success."
The cornerstone of Explogen’s approach are tools and techniques allowing efficient cloning and manipulating of large DNA fragments. Their equipment infrastructure includes Sanger-based and next generation DNA sequencing instruments.
But it wasn't easy to get their lab up and running.
"Doing the renovations and setting up the laboratory properly took a lot longer than we expected," admits Yuriy.
Explogen’s clients are pharmaceutical and agricultural companies, universities and research institutions working on drug research, antibiotics and agrochemicals discovery and development, microbial natural products production, metabolic and genomic engineering, and synthetic biology of microorganisms.
They offer their clients a set of services ranging from routing cloning, genome sequencing and analysis, and genomic libraries construction up to strain engineering projects where precise and specific changes need to be made within the genome of a microorganism.
What's next for the company?
"Development and growth. Development means developing new tools, techniques and methods, increasing our team's proficiency. By growth I mean establishing new collaborations and contacts both inside and outside Ukraine, progressing with our internal projects and offering some of their outcomes as products, and expanding our involvement in educational programs," said Yuriy.
"Ukraine has people with great ideas and enormous creativity. There are many talented enthusiastic young scholars in Ukraine, who have a great potential to become prominent scientists in the biotech field. This can be achieved by providing them with the opportunity to learn what modern biotechnology is and what it offers," he said.
"On the other hand, the almost complete absence of an internal biotech market, overly regulated administrative and financial laws, and underdeveloped equipment base of Ukrainian universities are major obstacles that make biotech-oriented education and business quite challenging in Ukraine," he added.
"In science you have to be brave. Especially in doing science in Ukraine."