Abstract: Codex Research, a Sydney based biotechnology start-up, is developing biomimetic bioreactor technology that will reduce the fidelity to current limited bioscience models in order to push medical research to new levels of translation and enhance clinical practices.
Keywords: bioreactor technology, biomimetic, bioscience, automation, biotechnology, medical research.
The success story
The COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for easily accessible, accurate, trustworthy, and comprehensive biological research to translate to the general population. Codex Research has embraced this challenge, after considering the rhetoric of many clinicians and biologists over the years; Why was so much of successful scientific research not translating into rapid advances in the practice of medicine; in improving understanding, diagnostics and treatment? The answer- a move away from the reliance on antiquated 2D cell culture and ethically questionable animal methods, towards revolutionary 4D cell culture. Thus, Codex Research’s ground-breaking perfusion bioreactor technology can be utilised to grow and study human tissues by mimicking the intricacies of the human body in ways unseen before. Codex Research is looking to be a foremost pioneer in the high-tech hardware industry in Australia.
Where did we start?
Derived from years of medical research at the University of Sydney, Ed Brackenreg embarked on establishing Codex Research in 2017. Brackenreg, having a deep understanding of both biology and computer engineering, could see that biology was ripe for technological disruption. Innovations in sensor technology and smart control systems had made the intricately complex task of replicating native tissue conditions, such as pressure, flow, mechanical forces, nutrient supply and waste removal, possible outside of living organisms. Moreover, advancing computer processing power and tools meant that the large, multidimensional datasets generated from such technology could be collected and analysed in a more efficient manner. Ed had poured himself into this project, staking his time, skill, and personal savings, and by 2018, in collaboration with Steve Wise’s laboratory, the long hours dedicated to an innovative idea evolved into a reality. The development of the perfusion bioreactor system for engineering human-relevant arteries had begun.
Codex Research has started with the cardiovascular system, recognising that currently cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia1, their current prototype has cultured grafts that resemble human arteries with initial collagen production, and has grown cancer cells in clusters that resemble secondary tumour formation. Perhaps most excitingly, they have also observed spontaneous self-assembly of cells into channels similar to the body’s natural process of forming new blood vessels (angiogenesis) – opening up research avenues that could help to overcome a major roadblock in tissue engineering.
The journey so far
Traditionally, physical hardware as an investment is considered too risky and expensive. Codex research, however, was an exception to this funding bias, succeeding in securing an initial investment through the Research & Development tax incentive scheme from the Australian Government.
Further, in 2019, Codex Research, in collaboration with The University of Sydney, was awarded an IMCRC grant worth $851,000 over three years. This investment facilitated the expansion of the company to the six staff currently employed. Staff and PhD students were also brought onboard in Steve Wise’s laboratory and now work closely with Codex employees to develop the bioreactor system. The vascular graft bioreactor prototype developed by this team yielded some promising early results, eliciting great excitement at the potential of the device and its future applications.
Brackenreg believes in the importance of implementing a commercialisation strategy early on, which saw the participation of Codex Research in two intensive accelerator programs – ProtoX and Ascend in 2020. Brackenreg asserts that “both programs supported the opportunity to integrate critical customer insight into product development and enhance ongoing academic industry collaborations”. Codex Research then completed Sydney University’s INCUBATE program in 2021, solidifying their commercialisation vision, through upskilling on the process of pitching to investors. Now, several years since the project began, Brackenreg insists that the “collaborative relationship between Codex Research and The University of Sydney has grown into a vibrant team of people who are working to bring this technology to life” (Figure 2). Their MVP is now in development, and Codex research are looking to begin manufacturing and get their technology to more users.
Look into the future
The substantial role that the Codex Research bioreactor technology can have is clear and researchers are clamouring to get their hands on the device. Codex research will, however, face challenges in the uncertainty of manufacturing and selling their early-stage prototype. Brackenreg remains confident that with support from the IMCRC and the relationships they have built in the start-up community, there will be a plethora of potential opportunities for their technology.
In navigating an ever changing landscape, Brackenreg remains focused on upskilling the Codex Research staff in the vitality of interdisciplinary teamwork and agile methodology to facilitate the execution of their long-term vision whilst remaining abreast of opportunities for acquiring sufficient capital. Pending first product delivery in 2021, Codex Research are feverishly optimistic, uninhibited in their commitment to their admirable purpose. Brackenreg concludes that “the 5-year goal is to be an ASX-listed biotech company with a growing range of disrupting medical and bioscience products that will aim to cease unnecessary human suffering. The true hope is that within a few years, no bioscientist or medical researcher will dream of conducting experiments without using a 4D cell culture device”. Ultimately, Codex Research has the potential to seismically transform the current human approach to research, disease and medicine.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Deaths in Australia. Cat. no. PHE 229. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 25 June 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia
Codex Research Pty Ltd
Investment rounds (Collected in 15.08.21)
At the Angel investment stage.
Main facts (Collected in 15.08.21)
Codex Research started in 2017.
The first product will be delivered in 2021.
Codex currently has 6 employees.
The next milestone is to finish our MVP development.
Amy Maher is a Post Graduate Medical Student and is completing her clinical coursework at Westmead Hospital. During her studies, Amy undertook biomedical lab work in the areas of molecular genetics and biochemistry and developed integrated research skills, focusing on POEM’s and population health.
Throughout her multiple positions, as a Student Representative and UOWX Ambassador at the University of Wollongong, Amy has strived to integrate digital educational tools and innovative approaches to improve students’ academic, employment and mental health outcomes, particularly at the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Amy has extensive knowledge in pathophysiological and anatomical health sciences as well as medical ethics. She holds a Bachelor of Pre-Medicine, Science and Health (with Distinction), majoring in Medical Science from the University of Wollongong, and is currently completing her Doctor of Medicine at the University of Sydney.