Advancing the frontier of biotechnology innovation

Biomed alumni Denzil Furtado wins $10K to accelerate his mRNA start up in the TRAM Air Pitch Showcase Competition in November.

Photo credit: Flashpoint Labs

Bachelor of Biomedicine alumni, Denzil Furtado is no stranger to innovation – the Westpac Scholar and PhD researcher has worked across multiple groundbreaking projects in the biotechnology space.

And his latest start-up is no exception. Cofounded with Prof Frank Caruso, Messenger Bio was born as a result of Denzil’s early PhD research looking at messenger RNA (mRNA) to treat single gene diseases of the brain.

Together they are building a next-gen bio manufacturing platform, starting with mRNA as the flagship product.

When COVID-19 suddenly put mRNA on the map, we realized there were a lot of people who wanted to use the technology for their own research, but didn’t necessarily want to become domain experts

Their goal? To make it easy and affordable for scientists anywhere in the world to access mRNA technology enabling them to spend more time focusing on high value downstream projects.

“By partnering with scientists early on, we hope to accelerate the discovery and development of new products, from vaccines to gene editing medicines,” says Denzil.

Messenger Bio were part of the TRAM Air Program in 2022 – the University’s impact accelerator program designed for advanced research teams who are working towards immediate commercial outcomes. At the TRAM Air Pitch Showcase Competition in November last year, Denzil pitched to over 60 investors showing how his work is creating meaningful impact and took home the competition's top prize of $10,000.

Photo credit: TRAM

The local biotech start-up has also received grant funding from mRNA Victoria to automate and expand the capacity of their RNA Engineering Toolbox, a crucial piece of accessible infrastructure that help researchers translate their mRNA breakthroughs into potential new vaccines and products.

“Right now we are focused on building our internal capabilities so we can serve more and more customers, and eventually branch out from mRNA into other biotechnology product categories,” Denzil says.

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