Q&A: BioKier

by David D. Menzies

RALEIGH, N.C. -- There were numerous innovative companies participating in CED’s recent 2016 Life Science Conference earlier this month. As part of our mission to build a stronger innovation community, CarolinaTechNews is running a series of features on some of those entrepreneurial startups and established operations contributing to the life sciences. We caught up with Jerzy "George" R. Szewczyk, Ph.D., the CEO of BioKier Inc. for some interesting Q&A.

Q: When was BioKier Inc. founded and why?

A: The company was founded by myself and Dr. Roger Nolan in October of 2008 to develop product for metabolic diseases including diabetes to capitalize on my idea how to “medicinalize” effects of bypass surgery on metabolic diseases.

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Q: Where is your HQ and how many employees do you have?

A: We are a virtual company and, when needed, we utilize office and meeting space offered by The Frontier center at RTP. We currently have four employees.

Q: What are your company’s core products or services?

A: We are a research and development company working on treatment for diabetes and related metabolic diseases with the goal to partner at a later time with a bigger company to commercialize our products.

Q: Who are some recognizable members of your leadership team? 

A:  In addition to a strong management team we have assembled a very experienced advisors group which includes:

Dr. David D’Alessio; Professor of Medicine, and Director of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition at Duke University Medical Center

Dr. Kristin Newby; Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology, Co-Director of the Cardiac Care Unit at Duke

Dr. Fiona Gribble: Professor of Endocrine Physiology and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge (UK)

Dr. Michael Camilleri; Professor of Medicine and Physiology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (Rochester MN)

Fran Martin; Former Vice President of Global Product Strategy at GSK.

Q: What differentiates you from competitors? 

A: There several companies pursuing similar ideas of utilizing finding of gastric bypass surgery in treatment of diabetes. NGM and Apofore are developing peptides/proteins which are up-regulated as the result of gastric bypass surgery. Satiogen was developing bile acids in enterically coated tablets, but there were no updates on their website for couple of years. Lumena was developing bile acids reuptake inhibitors to increase colonic concentration of bile acids, but product failed in clinical trials for Primary Biliary Cirrhosis.

BioKier’s product is L-glutamine, very effective GLP-1 secretagogue, in sustained colon-targeted formulation. As demonstrated in early clinical study in diabetic patients colonic L-glutamine very effectively augmented GLP-1 and insulin secretion, similarly to post gastric bypass surgery effect.

Q: Does your company develop new technologies or re-apply existing technologies to solve a problem? 

A: This is new proprietary idea of delivering L-glutamine to the colon and we are utilizing new formulation for sustained release and proprietary colon targeting coating PhloralTM which we in-licensed from University College of London.

Q: Who are your customers?  

A: Once we complete Proof of Concept for our product, our potential partners are big pharma for further development as Rx drug of nutritional companies if product will be developed as a medical food. We have relationships with both of those types of organizations, which expressed interest in our product.

Q: What problems does your company solve? 

A: Unlike other anti-diabetes medications which are mostly addressing symptoms of diabetes our product will address one of the root cause of diabetes progression by correcting physiological deficiency of GLP-1 secretion observed in diabetes patients. In addition because our active ingredient is L-glutamine it is anticipated that there will be no adverse effects associated with this treatment.

Q: What new products or services or services will you be rolling-out in 2016? 

A: We will conduct a clinical study which will demonstrat product effectiveness which should lead to market entry early in 2018 as a medical food.

Q: What makes your company relevant to the future of your industry? 

A: Our novel approach to enable diabetic patients to have much better control of their daily glucose and as the results immediate improvement in diabetes, and in the long term prevention of development of diabetes associated co-morbidities.

Q: Will your company be participating in any upcoming trade shows or other events, or are you being featured in any upcoming industry publications? 

A: BioKier is taking part this year in Bio Europe Spring 2016 and “Functional and Medical Foods for Chronic Diseases: Bioactive Compounds and Biomarkers” conference organized this year at Harvard Medical School, Boston where we will present our progress to date.

Q: Where can people go to find out more information? 

A: Our website www.biokier.com.