Member spotlight: supercharging drug discovery with Carterra
Meet Josh Eckman, Founder and CEO of Carterra, a leading provider of innovative technologies designed to accelerate the discovery of novel therapeutic candidates. Josh details Carterra's journey, from disrupting an already established industry as a start-up, to assisting in the development of the first therapeutic antibody to COVID-19.
Tell us about Carterra
Our vision at Carterra is to improve human health by providing novel tools to scientists who are developing breakthrough medicines. We enable better decision-making early in the drug discovery process with high-resolution, high-throughput binding analysis platforms. Our technology helps level the playing field between large pharma companies and smaller organisations. It is now possible for “a few people in a garage” to compete with the largest global pharmaceutical companies, due to the power of our LSA platform – it is a force multiplier and equaliser for small organisations, and a significant accelerating resource for large organisations. We believe this will increase competition, leading to better outcomes for patients, lower drug prices, and wider availability.
How does your technology accelerate drug discovery?
With more than 5,000 human diseases that do not have a cure, there is a pressing need for improved efficiency in the drug discovery process. We developed our LSA instrument to help in this effort. The LSA combines high-throughput microfluidics with Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR), enabling detailed interrogation of antibody binding and epitope at breakneck speed. The LSA can complete months of work within days while utilising dramatically less sample than existing technologies. Since its launch in 2018, the LSA has garnered a large and diverse customer base on four continents which includes CROs, biotechs, academic research centres, and 19 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies.
What is your company’s greatest achievement so far?
In 2021, Eli Lilly and AbCellera used the Carterra LSA during the development of the first therapeutic antibody to COVID-19, which was released many months before vaccines would become available. The LSA’s ability to quickly produce large amounts of high-resolution data helped them discover a therapeutic candidate and take it into clinical trials in only 90 days – a process that can often take years. The therapeutics they developed, Bamlavinimab and Bebtelovimab, helped millions of patients around the world and likely saved tens of thousands of lives. We are humbled to have played a small part in that important effort.
What have been your biggest challenges?
We have chosen to disrupt an established industry, which has its pros and cons. In our case, we compete against large multinational corporations who have established product lines, global footprints, and substantial resources. These dynamics were challenging in the early days as a small startup with an innovative and complex technology. We had to invest the time and resources to develop a sophisticated product that would rival the established players, in addition to scaling up the highly novel aspects of our proprietary technology. Now that we have launched our next-generation platform and acquired a global customer base, we are set up well for continued success.
Why did you join the BIA?
We joined the BIA to connect and collaborate with the best biotech and life sciences companies in the UK. We are continually expanding and growing, particularly in Europe, and being a part of the BIA is a great opportunity to build more bridges in an ever-growing biotech community.
What excites you about the UK life sciences sector?
The UK life sciences sector excites us because of its diverse range of companies, which are highly innovative and dynamic. As a powerful hub for life science research, it is an honour and privilege to be part of this community.
If you could invite any scientist or entrepreneur to dinner, who would it be and why?
It would be interesting to meet Bill Gates, as he has been involved in so many areas of technology development over the years and many of his prognostications have come true. I would love to hear what he thinks is going to happen over the next 20 to 30 years!
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