By the time she had finished her doctoral thesis in 2013, Allison Derenne had discovered that the pharmaceutical industry, which relies on infrared spectrometry for analyzing the proteins in new biopharmaceutical products, was underusing this technology. During her 10 years of higher education, Derenne discovered how to optimize infrared spectrometry to save companies time and money, which lead her to create the spin-off company Spectralys Biotech to extend this knowledge to the pharmaceutical market.
In the battle against cancer and other serious diseases, the development of new drugs using proteins currently represents one of the most promising approaches. As such, Derenne´s breakthrough, capable of accelerating pharmaceutical development, has lead to her inclusion in MIT Technology Review, Spanish Edition´s Innovators Under 35 Belgium 2016 awards.
A doctoral graduate in bioengineering from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Derenne has applied for a patent for her new, infrared spectrometry technique. According to the young innovator, her proposal analyzes multiple parameters of each protein simultaneously and without the need to constantly recalibrate the instruments, a common problem today. Along with proprietary software that processes the infrared spectrum, Derenne says her analysis is between three and ten times quicker than current techniques.
The young bioengineer affirms she is in negotiations with several pharmaceutical companies which she prefers not to name. Initially, she will examine the samples they provide, but eventually she aims to commercialize her own instruments. Although for now Spectralys Biotech is owned by the UBL, Derenne plans to found her own company before year end.
According to the director emeritus of the Vertebrate Genomics team at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics (Germany) and a jury member of the Innovators Under 35 Belgium 2016 awards, Hans Lehrach, her project could generate "a very significant" impact. The expert adds: "[Derenne] has already created a company to commercialize her idea, and it seems to be doing very well given the interest demonstrated by the industry."