Who: Ingrid Pultz, Co-founder & CSO
Company: PvP Biologics – We develop novel therapeutics for celiac disease.
What problem do you solve?
Celiac disease affects an estimated 2.4 million people in the United States. It’s triggered by an inflammatory immune reaction to gluten fragments created from digesting dietary wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten fragments are difficult for all human digestive enzymes to break down. Most people pass them partly digested without problems. However, some people mount an immune response to the gluten fragments, causing abdominal inflammation that damages the intestines and leads to nutritional deficiencies like anemia, osteoporosis, and an increased incidence of lymphoma.
One option for addressing celiac disease is a gluten-free diet, but, gluten is everywhere. People with celiac disease “get glutened” on a regular basis. Many patients continue to report persistent symptoms despite adhering to a gluten-free diet.
We created an enzyme – KumaMax – that breaks down gluten in the stomach, a notoriously difficult place to administer an intervention because it is a highly acidic environment. We are developing KumaMax for celiac patients attempting to maintain a gluten-free diet but who may accidentally ingest gluten.
Where: CoMotion Labs @ Fluke Hall – Healthcare / Biotech / Clean tech / Engineering / Hardware industries
When: Joined CoMotion Labs in Jan 2017
Where are you in your startup journey, and what have been some key milestones along the way?
Our startup is an outgrowth of an undergraduate protein engineering project I led (with a few others) as a UW graduate student in 2011. Working with Dr. David Baker’s group at the UW Institute for Protein Design we competed in the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition at MIT. For this competition, we used software to design about 100 proteins that might process gluten and maintain activity in the acidic conditions of the stomach. Of those 100, we identified a promising prototype. Our team won the international grand championship that year for designing KumaMax, the first undergraduate team to achieve this honor.
Over the next few years, we performed further engineering and refinement of the prototype, and obtained the lead KumaMax candidate that we have today. From there, PvP Biologics spun out of the UW and began life as a startup at CoMotion Labs.
What’s the latest?
We’re now beginning two Phase 1 clinical studies: 1) evaluating drug safety, and 2) measuring how well KumaMax breaks down gluten.
What efforts to build a successful business have worked?
We got lucky selecting a great leadership team with specific experience in developing and partnering GI drugs. As part of that, we were able to secure a partnership with Takeda, which provided $35 million in funding for research through Phase 1 clinical studies.
Startup Advice: As a mother to a four-year-old and nine-month-old, it is essential to me to have some control over where and when I work. And, it’s great living close to where you work.
Why do you love CoMotion Labs?
“The open layout makes me feel like I’m at the center of interesting things – ideation, inventions, people building things. We make good use of the nice conference space too!”
“Here you’ll find brilliant people working on all kinds of things: disease cures, robotics, and social programs powered by IT. It’s a stimulating environment to say the least.”
Follow PvP Bio: Twitter
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About CoMotion Labs: CoMotion Labs, a self-sustaining membership-supported program of UW CoMotion, provides a multi-industry labs system hosting 90+ startups inside and outside the UW community. This incubator supports startups with learning programs, mentoring, networking, and space — in three locations across the UW Seattle campus and a virtual lab in Spokane — across a variety of industries including engineering, IT, life sciences, medical devices, clean tech, blockchain, AI and AR/VR.