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#knowthesestartups – interview with mnemogen

23. Juli 2020

Life ScienceEntrepreneurship

In our #knowthesestartups section we regularly present start ups from the life science sector that you should definitely know about. Today we present you Mnomgen. Mnemogen joined the last Life Science Track and won the special prize „Life Sciences“ at the LIFT-OFF foundation competition this year. 

What does Mnemogen do exactly?

We are developing a comprehensive screening assay to discover cognitive drugs. We aim to have a humanized system where thousands of compounds can be tested for effects on cognitive function in a fast, reliable, and unbiased way. In this way revolutionary new drugs against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be more quickly brought to market.

The disruptive aspect of our start-up is that it is unbiased. There is no preselected target molecule or pathway against which drug candidates are screened, unlike traditional cognitive drug discovery that has repeatedly failed. In addition, it is humanized – based on human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neurons. Many cognitive drugs have failed due to lack of translation between animal models and humans. Our system eliminates the need for animal testing. This makes it possible to test a vast number of candidate compounds in a high-throughput fashion while consistently getting reliable results.

Which team is working behind Mnemogen?

We are a team of three neuroscientists with expertise in different areas. Camin was a project leader at the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen and is now at Charité in Berlin. Ermis did his PhD in Gottingen and now is also in Charité and Henning is finishing his PhD in Göttingen.

What is your goal?

Our goal is to help dementia patients. Over 44 million people worldwide suffer from this devastating disease, 1.5 million people in Germany, and until today only palliative care is available. In addition, the global burden to the healthcare system is estimated at 31 billion euros annually. A memory-enhancing drug will have a tremendous impact on the lives of these patients since it will ameliorate the effects of degenerative cognitive diseases, and enhance their cognitive performance. Consequently, the burden and expenses of healthcare providers will be alleviated.

How did the idea come up?

We came up with our idea after repeatedly seeing seemingly promising drugs against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease fail to pass clinical trials due to a lack of effectiveness. As far as we know, past and present efforts to find drugs against cognitive disorders – especially dementia – are focused on specific molecules that were thought to affect these processes. A characteristic example is amyloid beta; until today every compound shown to reduce the formation of amyloid beta deposits has consistently failed to stop the loss of cognitive abilities of patients, or to extend their healthy lifespan.

After many discussions we realized that we had to face dementia as it truly is: a multifactorial disease. It is not just the outcome of a specific protein or a single factor. Therefore, we are targeting the collective outcome of all involved genes, known and yet unknown, encompassing the “memory signature” in order to select the most potent and promising pharmaceutical compounds according to their ability to target this signature.

What is the Lift Off start-up competition?

Lift-off is a start-up competition where participants can present their idea to a wide audience.

What have you learned from the Lift Off start-up competition?

This year’s Lift-Off preparation happened to be during restrictive measures due to COVID-19, therefore we didn’t have the chance to meet in person with mentors and experts. However, this was a lesson in adapting our outreach strategies. A video pitch was something new to our team, since we were used to presenting our ideas in-person. But thanks to Lift-Off we had the opportunity to learn this skill.

Which teams would you recommend to participate in the next foundation competition?

We would recommend that any team with a potentially marketable idea participate in the next competition. It is a great opportunity to apply your academic research, test your idea, and learn more about entrepreneurship.

You also participated in the ahead life science track last year. What is the ahead life science track and how did it support you?

The ahead life science track is a joint program of the Life Science Factory in Göttingen and Fraunhofer. It is focused on accelerating the founding process of a start-up through workshops, seminars and mentoring. Our experience throughout the course of the program was nothing but positive. During these six months we realized how important it is to take care of all aspects of a business venture and not only the scientific part. Market research, customer interviews, intellectual property strategies, types of funding – if all these aspects are not carefully considered, a start-up may have the greatest technology ever but it is uncertain it will succeed. Furthermore, this program brought us in touch with successful entrepreneurs to identify and discuss weak spots in our business approach. We are pleased to still keep in touch with many of them.

What would you advise teams that are in an early stage of formation? What should teams pay attention to?

It is crucial not to overlook the business aspects of a start-up. Since all of us come from an academic background we believed that if we had a great technology, the rest would be easy. But the earlier a team starts researching the potential market, funding sources and strategies to protect intellectual property it will generate, the better.

how are you connected to the life science factory?

We are grateful for the opportunities provided by the Life Science Factory. We participated in the AHEAD Fraunhofer/ Life Science Factory program last year, in which we were fully immersed in everything it takes to form a start-up – throughout the Bootcamp, Sprint, and Life Science Factory Check-Ins – in workshops with other teams, mentors, entrepreneurs, Biotech CEOs, business specialists, patent lawyers, and investors. The Life Science Factory is quite unique as a launching pad for start-ups from academia, and we would highly recommend it to any scientist interested in entrepreneurship. We still keep in touch with our network of mentors from the Life Science Factory in continuing to grow our start-up idea.

start-up-name:  Mnemogen
contact person: Camin Dean
e-mail: c.dean@eni-g.de
Linked-in page: Mnemogen

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