Amanda Silva Brun: An Inspiring Journey of Quest to Bridge Science and Innovation

Amanda Silva Brun - Bridge Science and Innovation | EverZom | The Lifesciences Magazine

The past year has been a period of immense growth and transformation for the biotechnology industry. From groundbreaking advancements in gene editing and artificial intelligence to the continued fight against global health challenges, the field has pushed boundaries and offered hope to millions. At the forefront of this progress stand the visionary leaders who navigate complex scientific research, navigate regulatory hurdles, and ultimately guide their companies toward developing life-changing therapies. Amanda Silva Brun (Director of Research at CNRS, Co-Founder of EverZom) is deeply intrigued and passionate about the journey from scientific discoveries to market-ready products or services, emphasizing the transition from knowledge generation to real-world application for socioeconomic benefit.

Inspiring Tale of Science and Entrepreneurship

Born in the poorest region of Brazil, Amanda’s journey to research and innovation in Europe was far from predestined. Hailing from the northeast of Brazil, an area marked by limited access to therapies and a significant illiteracy rate of approximately 20%, Amanda’s upbringing was rooted in humble beginnings. Her grandparents, with limited literacy skills, underscored the challenges she faced. To finance her education at pharmacy college, Amanda Silva Brun began working in the evenings and weekends at the young age of 16.

Over a decade, she found the way out from these modest beginnings to immigrating alone to France, and she achieved the remarkable feat of obtaining two PhDs in addition to her pharmacy degree. After completing a pharmacy degree, a PhD in pharmaceutical technology, a second PhD in cell biology, and two post-doctoral positions in nanomedicine, Amanda secured a tenured researcher position at CNRS in 2013.

Initially, Amanda harbored indifference and skepticism towards the involvement of academic scientists in entrepreneurship. She was convinced it wasn’t a path for her. Reflecting on this, she feels motivated to share her journey from science to innovation, recognizing that similar assumptions may be held by some academic colleagues. She hopes her experiences can help challenge assumptions, reshape perceptions, and dispel misconceptions.

Moving beyond Academic Limitations

Amanda emphasizes that founding a startup isn’t a default choice but rather a path influenced by the nature of scientific discoveries and the individuals encountered. Early in her academic career, she viewed her work as scientific inquiry and knowledge generation rather than focusing on socioeconomic impact.

This perspective shifted gradually when collaborating with a clinician gastroenterologist, Prof. Dr. Gabriel Rahmi, who was genuinely interested in addressing the unmet medical needs of patients. Their collaborative research evolved beyond hypothesis testing to a quest for therapeutic solutions, particularly after validating hypotheses in clinically relevant models and administering therapy to the first patient.

Witnessing the treatment of the first patient alongside her clinician colleague was a transformative experience for Amanda, underscoring the realization that it marked the beginning rather than the end of their journey. The challenge shifted towards scaling the therapy for millions of patients, highlighting the importance to go beyond academia in achieving widespread impact. Amanda Silva Brun recognized the need to translate experimental solutions into economically viable products to attract private entities for sustainable drug development.

Amanda’s story is one of diversity and resilience. Despite facing formidable challenges, she not only obtained a pharmacy degree and two PhDs but also co-founded two startups. Her achievements garnered recognition, making her the youngest recipient of both the CNRS Innovation Medal (awarded to only four scientists annually out of 15,000) and the Paris Region Innovator Prize.

Furthermore, Amanda’s contributions to innovation led to her inclusion in the top 10 for the Women Innovator Prize in Europe by the European Innovation Council (EIC) . Her journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and determination in the face of adversity. This journey ultimately led Amanda to pursue further education at Harvard Business School.

Spinning off Success

Amanda Silva Brun holds the position of Director of Research at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Université Paris Cité, where she oversees responsibilities about science, innovation, and innovation promotion. Within the realm of scientific activities, Amanda leads a team of highly skilled post-doctoral researchers and PhD students engaged in scientific projects funded by the French government (France 2030) and the prestigious European Research Council (ERC).

Her research endeavors primarily revolve around the development of advanced methodologies for extracellular vesicle (EV) production using turbulent flow stimulation directly in bioreactors, molecular signature engineering, and EV administration within hydrogels for regenerative medicine applications such as fistula therapy and prevention of esophageal strictures.

Amanda’s research has laid the groundwork for significant intellectual property with a portfolio boasting four licensed patent applications, leading to the establishment of two spin-off companies: EverZom and Evora Bioscience. In addition to her research pursuits, she co-coordinates with her colleague Dr. Florence Gazeau, the Industrial Integrator IVETh initiative,  which aims to de-risk and expedite the advancement of academic and industrial projects in the field of biotherapy development.

Beyond her research and innovation endeavors, Amanda also takes a keen interest in research and innovation public policies, having been appointed as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board on research and innovation public policies of the Paris Region.

Anticipating and Addressing Constraints

On the front of innovation promotion, Amanda Silva Brun plays a pivotal role in coordinating the DIM BioconvS project with her colleague Dr. Ariel Lindner, an innitiative  aimed at fostering science and innovation in synthetic biology, biotherapy, and bioproduction within the Ile de France region, with a budget of 12.5 million euros (funded by Paris Region) and over 700 members. At the European level, she recently initiated the EU work group IMPACT! with her colleague Prof. Dario Polli, which brings together 120 scientists and innovators from over 20 countries in Europe to propose recommendations and best practices for translating academic scientific discoveries into socioeconomic impact.

Amanda’s leadership philosophy centers on the concept of collective intelligence. She eschews the notion of having all the answers to every question or solution to every problem. Instead, Amanda believes in presenting proposals as a starting point, fostering open discussions where the best solutions emerge through collective ideas and contributions.

Amanda Silva Brun finds it more comfortable to offer advice to leaders in healthcare research and innovation from academia. She suggests that they challenge their scientific discoveries as early as possible by:
i) Collaborating closely with clinicians and colleagues possessing entrepreneurial expertise.
ii) Formulating non-obvious hypotheses for patentability while conducting rigorous experiments, especially in clinically relevant models.
iii) Identifying regulatory constraints and proactively anticipating solutions at the earliest stages.
Amanda believes that these actions can contribute to achieving breakthroughs with greater innovation potential, thereby accelerating the path from science to socioeconomic impact.

Revolutionizing Regenerative Medicine

EverZom, established in 2019 by Jeanne Volatron (CEO) & Nicolas Rousseau (COO), focuses on developing treatments for digestive tissue healing such as Crohn’s fistula, as well as organ regeneration for organs like the kidney and liver. Positioned to lead the way in exosome therapeutics, EverZom harnesses the potential of exosomes, small vesicles secreted by cells, recognized for their ability to facilitate intercellular communication and address various diseases.

As a winner of the European EIC Accelerator Program, EverZom aims to pioneer advancements in this emerging field. The company has devised a proprietary platform, protected by multiple patents, facilitating exosome sourcing, generation, loading, and formulation. This platform enables the creation of proprietary programs and the establishment of early-stage partnerships in the realms of regenerative therapy and oncology.

  • EverZom specializes in scalable vesicle manufacturing using its proprietary turbulence method.
  • Its turbulence vesiculation technology, developed by the academic team, boosts vesicle production rates by over 10-fold compared to current methods.
  • Building on 15 years of vesicle research expertise of co-founders, EverZom offers services including characterization, isolation/purification, and engineering in a single-company approach.
  • Its biomanufacturing services have expedited R&D efforts for over 15 companies globally, saving significant time in the research process.
  • EverZom caters to cell therapy companies looking to integrate vesicle products, providing cost-effective manufacturing solutions applicable at all development stages.
  • The company has successfully developed an innovation platform protected by several patents, covering the entire technological value chain: cell sourcing, exosome generation, exosome loading, and formulation. By leveraging its platform, EVerZom aims to develop a pipeline of proprietary products in regenerative medicine, while establishing co-development partnerships in other therapeutic areas. EVerZom is currently developing two drug candidates: one targeting the healing of digestive tissues, with Crohn’s fistula as the primary indication, and another focusing on organ regeneration, specifically the liver and kidney. Preclinical results have demonstrated a significant acceleration in the healing process and a reduction in inflammation and fibrosis. The market size for these indications is estimated at several billion euros.

EverZom seeks to democratize regenerative medicine by pioneering cell-free therapy using extracellular vesicles, smaller than cells, but rich in therapeutic biomolecules. These vesicles offer advantages over traditional cell therapy, including reduced cancer risk, prevention of improper functions, and simplified logistics. EverZom’s turbulence vesiculation technology, developed by its academic team, addresses the challenge of cost-effective vesicle production, paving the way for a new era in regenerative medicine.

Turbulence Vesiculation Technology

EverZom’s turbulence vesiculation technology boosts vesicle production rates by over 10-fold compared to current methods. This physical stimulation occurs during cell culture in stirred-tank bioreactors, where the bioreactor’s stirring system is redirected to induce turbulent flow, resulting in significant vesicle release. This approach is cost-effective, scalable, and applicable directly in bioreactors already certified for clinical batch production. 

This technology provides unprecedented competitive advantages and represents a significant advancement in the field. It is effective for various cell types from human, animal, and bacterial sources, demonstrating exceptional versatility. Clinical doses can be produced in 1-liter bioreactors within 4 hours of turbulence stimulation, a vast improvement over the days or weeks required by current methods. In vivo experiments have confirmed the therapeutic efficacy of turbulence vesicles for various indications, including digestive fistulas and myocardial infarction, without the need for genetically engineering vesicles.

EVerZom is currently developing two drug candidates: one targeting the healing of digestive tissues, with Crohn’s fistula as the primary indication, and another focusing on organ regeneration, specifically the liver and kidney. Preclinical results have demonstrated a significant acceleration in the healing process and a reduction in inflammation and fibrosis. The market size for these indications is estimated at several billion euros.

Everzom is currently raising 12M€ to fund its early clinical trials.

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