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First Biotech’s gene-creation technology could benefit medicine, agriculture, research

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Athens-based startup First Biotech Inc. (FBTI) believes it’s found a better way to create new genes that could lead to new applications in medicine and other fields.

First Biotech produces and markets research reagents for a new smart DNA technology referred to as Unrestricted Mutagenesis and Cloning (URMAC). The technology was developed by the company’s founder, Louay Hallak.

The technology replaces conventional subcloning techniques — techniques that transfer a cloned DNA fragment from one vector to another — with fast biochemical reactions that allow direct manipulation of large DNA sequences in an efficient, reliable and cost-effective way. The company has plans to establish a manufacturing and service operation in Ohio University’s Innovation Center.

FBTI, which registered as a C-corporation last year, is in the process of forming a management team in preparation for launch later this year.

“The main product,” says Hallak, “is fully developed and ready to go to market. We are starting with a professional team of experts in management, marketing and biotechnology . . . we will add new jobs as needed . . . FBTI will manufacture biochemical reagents, mainly for DNA mutagenesis and cloning,” Hallak says.

Hallak says the company’s new technique “will enable users to create new genes in shorter time, with high accuracy and less overall cost than the competition.”

URMAC has wide application in many fields, such as medicine. It can be used to create protein therapeutics and viral vectors; in research, it can “knock out” or change genes to help understand their function; and it can be used in agriculture, for crop engineering.

FBTI has received pre-seed funding approval from TechGrowth Ohio, in addition to an earlier grant from TechColumbus. Hallak expects the new venture will achieve profitability within 12 to 18 months of launching.

Source: Louay Hallak, Founder, First Biotech Inc.
Writer: Patrick G. Mahoney