Thomas Brutnell, a skilled executive in the biotechnology sector, splits his time among a variety of endeavors. He is the founder of Viridis Genomics Consulting and serves as a visiting scientist for the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Beyond these roles, Thomas Brutnell is vice president of Gateway Biotechnology, a St. Louis-based drug-development business that recently secured over $2 million in federal funding.
Gateway was founded in 2011 with the purpose of developing drugs that prevent and treat hearing disorders. Since its founding, it has received several Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and SBIR grants from the NIH. It also is part of a $10 million contract from the United States Department of the Army to develop a treatment to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. The drug produced through this project is part of a clinical Phase II trial.
With the new SBIR grant, Gateway plans on supporting the advanced development of a tinnitus treatment. Tinnitus involves a ringing in the ear and is associated with hearing loss. While several companies seek drugs that prevent and treat this condition, there are currently no FDA-approved drugs for tinnitus on the market. The funding will help Gateway expand pilot studies of their lead candidate, a plant natural product, and move closer to clinical trials and FDA approval.
Plant genomics is a science with significant potential, especially as it relates to food security and crop diversity and improvement. In particular, one way that plant genomics is helping to ensure food security is through the collection, sequencing, and classification of gene banks and seed banks. Seed banks are a vital element in the preservation and organization of crop taxonomy and origins.
Studying these resources can provide significant insight into how desired traits are selected and passed on. Large scale studies, although they are logistically challenging, are among the best ways to undertake this sort of research. Ultimately, researchers might be able to use the data to create a generalizable framework for the improvement of other crops including those with medicinal properties.
Based in Missouri, Thomas Brutnell guides Viridis Genomics Consulting and works with business and academic clients in the plant biotechnology sphere. As Gateway Biotechnology, Inc.’s vice president, Thomas Brutnell is spearheading next-generation research and development for preventing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and tinnitus through innovative drug solutions. This approach uses repurposed medications with extensive safety records behind them to quickly move effective treatments to the market.
In October 2019, Gateway Biotechnology announced that it had received US patent number 10,434,097 for the development of tetrandrine (TET), a compound isolated from a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine. The patent draws on NIH-funded research that has demonstrated that TET is capable of protecting against more than 80 percent of noise treatment-induced damage.
As the firm’s cofounder and CEO Jianxin Bao, PhD, described it, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any therapeutics against NIHL to-date, which is a major worldwide health issue that can result in tinnitus, or a persistent ringing in the ears. The plan is to rapidly transition TET into clinical studies that can help bring a therapy at the vanguard of science to market.
Accomplished plant biotechnology professional Thomas Brutnell serves as the vice president of Gateway Biotechnology, where he oversees the transition from drug discovery to product development. He also founded Viridis Genomics Consulting to help bridge the divide between academic and industry science. As a geneticist and molecular engineer Thomas Brutnell has a broad range of interests that includes C4 photosynthesis, breeding, plant tissue culture, and synthetic biology.
The 20-year-old field of synthetic biology promises a future of exciting advances. Potential future advances in synthetic biology include fire-resistant lumber produced from genetically engineered trees, modified organs that are less likely to be rejected, and synthetic microbes that are capable of detecting an impending attack by disease organisms.
On June 19, 2019, the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, an initiative funded in part by the National Science Foundation, created a roadmap towards the future of synthetic biology. The Consortium agreed that synthetic biology is mature enough to offer solutions to a wide range of societal challenges.
More than 80 engineers and scientists from diverse disciplines and different universities and companies collaborated to provide a strong case to demonstrate the need for the federal government to invest in synthetic biology. With all the avenues that are open for biotechnological development, America should be at the forefront of these developments. The Consortium believes that now is the time to make synthetic biology a federal priority.
The roadmap serves as a guide for where synthetic biology should aim over the next two decades. It will also guide government investments, particularly those that relate to the spectrum of the Department of National Defense, Department of Energy, and National Institutes of Health.