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Our vision: eradicate viral threats

Our Vision

What if we could reach a future where viral infections are no longer a concern?

At capsitec, our mission is to completely change how we approach antiviral therapy. Our scientists have discovered that we can neutralize viruses by putting them into molecular cages. Our mission is to develop this concept into a versatile and adaptable platform for treating viral diseases. 

We also envision a future where our core technology, DNA origami nanofabrication, plays a crucial role in the development of therapeutic solutions for a wide range of conditions, beyond virus-associated diseases.  Capsitec is dedicated to making this vision a reality by continuously innovating and expanding the applications of our core technology.

Viral infections - a global threat

Viral infections - a global threat.

Viral infections pose a significant global challenge, affecting countless individuals and causing vast socio-economic consequences. These range from direct healthcare expenses to indirect costs like productivity loss. For instance, seasonal flu alone leads to 3-5 million severe illness cases annually, resulting in substantial social and economic strain. Furthermore, since December 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has spread globally, causing over 660 million infections and over 6.7 million deaths as of January 2023.

Viruses lack a proper metabolism and are classified based on factors such as the nucleotide and capsid type. Human-infecting viruses fall into 21 families which is only a tiny fraction of the existing spectrum of viruses. Beyond seasonal and pandemic infections, common viral diseases include HIV and hepatitis. HIV affected 38 million patients in 2021, while over 350 million people were infected with hepatitis in 2019. While treatments for some of these diseases exist, many remain inaccessible due to high costs, particularly in emerging and developing countries. Additionally, the threat of viral epidemics is escalating due to climate change and global migration, amplifying the need for quick therapeutic response.

DNA origami nanofabrication

DNA origami nanofabrication

Capsitec leverages DNA origami nanofabrication, a cutting edge technique in nanotechnology and synthetic biology, to create tailor-made objects that self-assemble from DNA molecules. This process involves designing a target object, encoding its 3D shape and functionality into DNA strands, which are then chemically or biotechnologically produced and self-assembled through temperature annealing.

DNA origami enables the creation of complex structures consisting of hundreds of DNA strands and thousands of base pairs. The high-resolution structures are verified using high-powered transmission electron microscopy, ensuring their structural integrity and geometric precision.

Recent technical advancements have made commercial use of DNA origami structures possible. Key developments include reducing production costs through scalable processes, stabilizing DNA nanostructures for physiological conditions, and creating DNA origami structures larger than virus particles.

Many of the technological breakthroughs and inventions described above, along with other essential detailed knowledge, have been developed by the innovators and world-leading scientists at capsitec GmbH. Our expertise and the technological potential of DNA origami offer excellent prospects for finding and implementing solutions to challenges in the area of new antiviral therapeutics.

Icosahedral shell canvas

The programmable icosahedral nanoshell system

Encapsulating whole viruses requires the construction of large, massive, macromolecular shells, which is a difficult challenge in nanotechnology. After more than a decade of intensive research on the DNA origami fabrication methodology, the founding team is currently the only research group in the world to have achieved the technical capability to put the virus trap concept into practice. Prior work was carried out in part by the European Union within the competitive Future Emerging Technologies program. This preliminary work led to the development of a programmable virus-sized icosahedral shell platform. The shells are composed of triangular bricks fabricated with DNA origami with user-defined geometries and openings. 

Capsitec's team has created shells with internal diameters ranging from 30 nm to 400 nm, which can thus accommodate the vast majority of known virus particles inside them. The shells also have sufficiently large openings to allow virus trapping, are stable and safe for use in physiological fluids such as serum with a combination of photochemical crosslinking and polymer coating to delay degradation by nucleases in a controlled manner. The DNA components required for the shells can be mass produced using a scalable biotechnological process. The interior of the shells can be functionalized with virus-binding molecules such as antibodies, aptamers, peptides, or carbohydrate polymers in a modular fashion. The number and position of the virus binders can be customized. Due to the large number of virus binders available in the shells, extremely strong avidity effects can be realized. These avidity effects make it possible to stably catch and neutralize viruses even with virus binders that are very weak in themselves.

The virus trap - a universal cell entry inhibitor

The virus trap - a universal and adaptable virus cell entry inhibitor

The virus trap is an innovative antiviral therapy that leverages nanotechnology to combat various viral infections. These engineered "traps" encapsulate viruses, halting their replication and lifecycle, a significant departure from conventional methods that target specific viral proteins.

Key features of the virus trap include:

  1. Modularity: The trap can be tailored to capture different types of viruses, regardless of their form.
  2. Compatibility: It works with a range of virus-binding molecules such as antibodies, peptides, and polymers.
  3. Resilience: Through physicochemical avidity effects, it can robustly trap viruses, offering resistance against viral mutations.
  4. Broad-Spectrum Activity: It doesn't require detailed molecular knowledge of the target pathogen and can disable many viruses using the same base platform.
  5. Viral Load Reduction: The trap aims to suppress viral reproduction, much like neutralizing monoclonal antibodies.
  6. Administration: It can be administered intravenously, subcutaneously, or via the respiratory tract, either for prevention or treatment of acute infections.
  7. Inertness: The trap is biologically inert, does not interfere with host metabolism, and is degraded naturally by the body's enzymatic processes.
  8. Additional Functionalities: The trap can be equipped with molecular functionalities to degrade bound viral particles and support pathogen removal by the immune system.

The virus trap not only offers a new avenue for creating antivirals but also enhances the efficacy and resilience of existing antivirals against mutations.