One of the richest countries in the world, Luxembourg is known for its gromperekichelcher (potato pancakes), fine wines and medieval castles. An economic powerhouse in Europe, the country’s healthtec sector is mainly focused on manufacturing diagnostic and medical devices, while the biopharma industry, which accounts for 29 percent of the sector’s revenue, is growing gradually.
Incubator launch in Home Health Bio – a collaboration between the Ministry of Economy and private investors – two years ago, it aimed to host spin-off and start-up life science companies in the country, to boost the growth of the sector.
As the industry develops in Luxembourg, let’s take a look at six biotech companies that are thriving in the field.
Invisible to the naked eye, microalgae have a high uptake of carbon dioxide, making them efficient at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Harnessing the potential of microalgae that grow in marine ecosystems, this Luxembourg-based biotechnology company has developed a range of skincare and nutritional products.
Luxbiotech’s photobioreactor cultivates Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) – a species of cyanobacteria found in fresh water – which is a superfood, as it contains high amounts of chlorophyll that can support digestion. Additionally, biotech extracts phycocyanin – a blue photosynthetic pigment – from the algae Spirulina platensis. Since the pigment has been found to reduce inflammation in the body, it has high commercial value.
Another microalgae harvested by the company is Porphyridium cruentum, a red algae that has skin refreshing properties and reduces wrinkles. The company’s product, which is synthesized after the algae has been cultivated in a controlled environment, is sold as a bioactive serum.
Founded in 2008, Luxembourg Bio Technologies manufactures and commercializes reagents and chemicals for peptide synthesis, the process of forming peptide bonds from amino acids.
The Luxembourg-based company sells its products to biotech, pharmaceutical and individual researchers, whose products are used in the synthesis of peptides, oligonucleotides and nanoparticles. Manufactured with sustainability in mind, some of the company’s products include fatty acids such as linoleic acid, lauric acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid, as well as coupling reagents, coupling activators, building blocks, scavenger thiols, thiocyanates, and tetrazoles.
Biotech, which is a spin-off of Luxembourg Industries Ltd, is also collaborating with facilities across Europe to carry out not only laboratory-scale experiments but also multi-litre reactions, for other companies without production plants to carry out pilot projects.
As the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria perform the cellular function of supplying energy. But over time, the process of converting fuel to energy results in the accumulation of reactive oxidative species (ROS). This excess of ROS – which are free radicals – in cells, causes oxidative stress. Clinical stage company Mitotech aims to target mitochondria to address neurodegenerative and metabolic disorders.
The biotechnology company, founded in 2009 in Luxembourg, developed its main compound SkQ1 for the treatment of dry eye disease – a condition in which tears are unable to provide sufficient lubrication for the eye. The active ingredients target lipid peroxidation within the eye to prevent tissue degeneration. These compounds are designed to improve tear quality to facilitate lubrication.
Mitotech saw progress in clinical trials for SkQ1, following a phase 3 study conducted in the US, proving the candidate’s efficacy in reducing symptoms of dry eye disease in participants. In addition, this compound is also being evaluated in preclinical studies for the treatment of glaucoma, Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and uveitis.
In 2022, Essex Bio-Technology in Hong Kong, acquired the worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and sell therapeutic products based on SkQ1 in ophthalmology. Mitotech’s drug candidate, Visomitin – a topical cardiolipin peroxidation inhibitor that comprises SkQ1 – obtained the US Food and Drug Administration’s Orphan Drug Designation for the treatment of LHON, a genetic condition that can cause vision loss, in 2021.
A spin-off of the Luxembourg Center for Systems Biomedicine at the University of Luxembourg, Nium, focuses on gut health, offering services such as microbiomes and nutritional clinical analysis utilizing bioinformatics technology, and conducting in vitro experiments to predict the impact of certain foods on the gut.
The company has developed a gut-on-a-chip model that mimics the interaction between microbes and the gut. The chip is fed to a stool sample, and after about 48 hours, the composition of the microbiome is checked. Nium works with food companies to assign probiotic scores to products, after which the companies decide whether they want to continue developing their products.
In partnership with Arizona State University College of Health Solutions, AZ WearTech Center, and Aventyn in the US, the company conducted a pilot nutritional support study for outpatient cancer patients. The AI-powered wrist device provides customized nutritional recommendations to ensure post-cancer recovery, heart and kidney health.
The biotech company is also partnering with the Luxembourg Institute of Health to investigate how including fiber in our diet affects certain gut bacteria. With this knowledge, the alliance aims to develop a platform to provide personalized dietary recommendations based on an individual’s unique metabolism.
In an effort to identify drug targets and develop candidates for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, OrganoTherapeutics has created a special human mini-brain, which is representative of the pathology of the disease.
With an aim to replace animal experiments in drug development as much as possible, biotech midbrain organoids were generated from somatic cell samples obtained from healthy individuals and Parkinson’s patients, the latter of which exhibit impaired dopaminergic neurons.
As part of the OrganoTherapeutics screening program, the company aims to identify new active compounds. The company’s AI-based platform performs in-depth phenotyping – a comprehensive analysis of abnormalities in which phenotypes are observed – to detect cellular aberrations.
In 2021, a study conducted by the company revealed that regularly clustered short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) were able to correct point mutations in cells taken from Parkinson’s patients. Following this, treatment with 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin increased the likelihood of autophagy – a process by which damaged cells are reused – neurons as well as increased dopaminergic differentiation of patient-specific neurons in midbrain organoids.
Founded in 2019 in Luxembourg, the biotechnology company has received funding in a single round that took place in 2020, with its most recent investors being Canada-based Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) and US-based startup accelerator MassChallenge.
Formed in 2016, Tolerogenics specializes in therapies for allergies and autoimmune diseases. A Luxembourg-based biotechnology company has developed a tolerance-inducing allergen-specific immunotherapy that aims to reinstall the function of Treg – regulatory T cells that can suppress the immune response to maintain self-tolerance.
The company’s ImmuneGel hydrogel, which will be injected subcutaneously, is designed to release an active substance which then attracts antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Through the process of phagocytosis, in which cells engulf large particles, these cells take up peptide-laden liposomes released by the hydrogel, thereby making them allergen-specific APCs. These modified APCs then interact with T cells to generate Treg cells, which in turn suppress the harmful activity of effector Teff cells, balancing the immune system.
In its channel, Tolerogenics has three recombinant protein products and two hydrogels which are allergen-derived T-cell peptides. Currently, the allergies they want to target are Hymenoptera insect venom allergies, house dust mite allergies, and birch pollen allergies.
ImmuneGel technology is the brainchild of Tolerogenics and the Luxembourg Institute of Health, with which the two organizations share the patent rights.