A prominent healthcare organization walking arm in arm with the latest developments in technology is VIROgene, a gene therapy startup based in Buenos Aires. The company was established in 2017 by a group of biotechnology and medicine professionals having enriching experience in genetic engineering, molecular engineering, synthetic biology and medicine.
With its multidisciplinary team of renowned academics, developers, and clinicians, VIROgene is uniquely positioned to translate the technology into veterinary and human therapeutics. It designs innovative therapies using genetic engineering and synthetic biology applied to a broad range of viruses, and optimizes the development of therapies to solve health issues.
About the Leading Light
Martin Williams, a biotechnology professional, is the CEO and Founder of VIROgene. With his unwavering passion and effort, he raised and built this revolutionary leading Gene Therapy Startup. His core purpose behind the inception of the company was to explore and build technological paths with a differential imprint to those already existing in the field of frontier molecular medicine. He believes, “Genes can be very effective therapeutic drugs when other strategies do not offer adequate solutions. Also, it is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of the Gene Therapy Revolution”.
An Inspiring Journey
It all started when Martin was pursuing his biotechnology studies and decided to take his degree thesis in gene therapy. Having a deep passion for genetic engineering and synthetic biology as well as in human and animal diseases, he always wished to start a company based on his knowledge in these fields. During the time, he looked for a lab to make his thesis and found the Genetic Engineering Laboratory of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Buenos Aires. After finishing his thesis, Martin asked his thesis partner and his Director, Dr. Mariano Belaich, to build a gene therapy startup company. He then started to participate in contests and events to look for funding. The central focus was on veterinary medicine in the first place to reach the market in less time, and then to focus on human medicine.
Gene and immune therapies are nowadays the most promising treatments for a great number of genetic diseases including cancer, diabetes, and hemophilia. VIROgene’s prototype, V5, is a gene and immune therapy for mammalian tumor treatment. This unique therapy combines the high transduction efficiency and high gene expression of viruses, with the design of novel logic gates that trigger cellular and immunological responses. Although, many veterinary and human therapies exist to fight oncologic processes (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and extractive surgery), some of them might compromise the patient’s physiological homeostasis, in different grades, making the entire organism susceptible to opportunist pathologies or even worse, creating new ones.
VIROgene is more focused on developing diabetes and hemophilia gene therapies as well, and vaccines using Virus Like Particles (VLPs) to trigger immune response against a broad range of pathogens. To bring in more innovation to its work, VIROgene develops gene therapies on viral technologies that are not based on mammalian pathogens, to offer alternatives with a higher level of biosecurity.
Setting Itself Apart
VIROgene is pioneering the development of life-changing treatments for severe diseases with engineered viruses that harbor therapeutic genes to cure diseases at the molecular and cellular level. This novel platform is built on the discovery that viruses can instruct the body’s cellular machinery to produce nearly any protein of interest, from native proteins to antibodies and other entirely novel protein constructions that can have therapeutic activity inside and outside of cells giving the human body the capabilities to develop targeted lifesaving therapeutics. This approach also allows the intracellular production of therapeutic RNA.
The startup has multidisciplinary group of professionals that are continuously developing new technologies to be at top of the ladder. Implementing synthetic biology, they are capable of creating complex gene circuits that allow them to adjust cellular activity in a right way.
On the top of all these characteristics, VIROgene uses non-infective virus, making its therapies highly safe. Besides, getting into the molecular level, the company’s engineered genetic circuits are based on the design of logic gates that assure the appropriate response to a certain cellular activity. All these features make its therapeutics very attractive to markets.
Moving ahead with Evolving Science
VIROgene is moving very close to the revolution in which great therapeutics will help thousands of lives. “Science is really tricky, and there are many uncontrolled factors in this environment that must be adjusted. Not everything is going to go perfectly and smoothly, but there is an endless effort underway that inspires everyone involved. Part of the diseases we work on, are ones that profoundly affect lives, and that´s why we are committed with that, and this has a significant impact in the development of human and animals’ therapeutics,” says Martin.
The company believes that everything it develops starts with the science and leads to the medicine and that there are many “firsts” along this journey that get repeated. It believes that ‘We have to be disruptors for change in a system that does not know how to deal with disruption.’
In 2017, the Argentinian Science and Technology ministry recognized VIROgene as ‘One of the Most Innovative StartUps in Argentina’ for developing a novel cancer gene therapy prototype. Also, in 2018, they were selected as ‘One of the Most Disruptive StartUps in Argentina’.
Today, there are a few gene therapies that are in clinical trial phase III for genetic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hemophilia, Duchenne´s Muscular Dystrophy, and from those therapies, few are being developed for animals (Canine, Feline, Equine, and other companion animals). Hence, VIROgene ensures to stay at pace with the latest developments through every-day brainstorming and research, and using technology that allows to develop novel and biosafe therapeutics.
VIROgene strives to generate solutions using disruptive technology in the human and veterinary medicine and to offer novel and effective alternatives to conventional treatments, enabling precise and corrective therapeutics. The company also plans to increment its developments for a diverse range of genetic and non-genetic diseases and also to develop novel-engineered viral systems that lend greater effectiveness to those available. “We see VIROgene as a leading global company, developing novel and disruptive treatments for severe human and animal conditions,” says Martin.