Discovering Biotech Startups: A map for Selling to Virogenics


Written by:
David Wilkerson

We are well on our way with the new branch of the Sponsor Atlas series, which focuses on young pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are in early stages or stealth mode. In the sixth edition of Sponsor Atlas: Discovering Biotech Startups, we’re looking at Virogenics, exploring the current affairs and future orientation of this emerging San Diego - based stealth biotech startup. To accomplish this, we will give a business overview of their current operations, summarize their outsourcing needs, map out their development goals and decision-makers, and highlight their current strategies for capturing innovation. If you haven’t already read our other blogs on new biotech startups, be sure to check them out here.

Virogenics, Inc. is a stealth biotech startup currently performing groundbreaking research and development in gene therapies and stem cell technology, as well as developing alternative vaccine treatments for multiple diseases. From developing innovative viral vectors for the potential treatment of HIV and Hemophilia to investigating immunotherapies for Alzheimer’s Disease and other CNS disorders, this company has really done its homework, all the while under the radar for the most part.  

Business Overview

Virogenics does not currently have any registered trademarks, or even an operating website other than a place-holder webpage for when they do decide to go public. Virogenics’ principal place of business is 4050 Sorrento Valley Blvd, San Diego, CA 92121. This location is a large facility that also houses 6 other separate businesses, but it is not classified as an accelerator facility. They also have a mailing address at PO Box 2702, Del Mar, CA 92014. The company is categorized as doing work in commercial biotechnical research, and our current estimates show they have annual revenue of around $320,000 and employ approximately 4 staff members.

Our records indicate that the business was established on July 1, 2003, incorporated in CA, and has been operating in stealth mode ever since. Virogenics has received 22 grants in total since the company’s inception and most recently received a Phase 2 SBIR grant payment of $967,956 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Since 2003, they have been awarded 10 SBIR grants totaling over $8.1M. Virogenics has already received most of this money to further their research efforts, and with that amount of funding to play around with, we believe they are in a great position to outsource a lot of their downstream development work. 

Outsourcing History

Even though there isn’t much online information about Virogenics’ outsourcing needs, with the amount of research they’re currently exploring at this point in time, we believe they could truly benefit from outsourced services in almost every step of the drug development process. If your team has experience with immunology and gene therapy research, preclinical services, or even large molecule clinical trial supplies, Virogenics should definitely be on your contact list, and you should be connecting with them for potential work in the near future. Most of their grant applications requested for the full amount of funding needed for IND submissions to the FDA, so they will be working through the usual development steps in their pipeline for many years to come. We think business development teams that specialize in immunology services and viral vector development would have a particularly good chance at providing support to Virogenics. Some of the target areas for outsourcing would be: Lentiviral vector gene therapy for CD45 delivery, working with knockout mice, and performing flow cytometry-based genotyping. Additional projects to potentially outsource would be process development for restriction enzyme digestion, oligonucleotide design, ELISA testing, and PCR services. 

Virogenics’ Pipeline and R&D Focus

The overall goal of the research described in Virogenics’ multiple grant applications is to complete the studies needed for IND submissions to the FDA. Their research focuses on stem cells, molecular genetics, and associated technologies in flow cytometry, ELISA, PCR, and other immunology-based work. Their pipeline is currently targeting feline lentiviral vectors as an alternative to human lentiviral vectors as a strategy to overcome the inherent concern in using HIV-based vectors for therapeutic purposes. By testing the various modifications of their vectors, Virogenics aims to create high-efficiency vectors that can be potentially used as therapeutic agents. Based on their previous HIV research, they are constructing several recombinant vector reporters and HIV genes for further testing to ultimately create alternative and safer therapeutic products and that are far more effective at treating diseases than current products on the market. 

Some of the ways business development teams can get their foot in the door at Virogenics, besides the early development work, would be to help with their preclinical portion of the research, including animal model development, early toxicology assessments, as well as bioanalytical testing, formulation development and even pilot manufacturing for any of their potential drug candidates. 

Decision Making

  • Dr. William (Bill) Raschke - CEO of Virogencis, has received over 50 research grants from various foundations, with work ranging from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center primarily for Cancer research, and then at Virogenics Inc. for HIV, Hemophilia, and Alzheimer’s Disease treatments. [1] He earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from UC Berkeley and has authored over 30 major publications in various research efforts while affiliated with the University of California and other places. His work has been cited numerous times by other authors in many relevant publications. [2]
  • Girija Muralidhar - Director of Vaccines Program at Virogenics, is also a very accomplished scientist, earning his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from The Ohio State University, as well as studying Immunology at the Stanford School of Medicine in California.

Innovation

Currently, there are no drugs that can prevent, slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Virogenics proposes to further develop a novel compound that is both neuroprotective and able to harness the advantageous aspects of the brain's immune system in order to prevent the loss of brain function in Alzheimer's disease. If successful, this approach could prove beneficial for the treatment not only of Alzheimer's disease but also a number of other age-related neurological disorders. [3]

While it’s still reasonably difficult to determine what Virogenics will have to offer while in stealth mode, their long list of grants along with the backgrounds of Dr. Raschke and Dr. Muralidhar, suggest an innovative platform for producing alternative viral vector products with a ton of work to still be done in their downstream activities. They’re definitely on track to create some potential breakthroughs and profitable therapies, so be sure to keep them on your contact schedule and look out for our next edition in this series coming soon.

How can I find new biotech startups?

If you would like a simple solution for keeping an eye on drug sponsor companies, like Virogenics, without relying on a database and generic lists of leads each week, we at Zymewire are here to help. Reach out today, and stay tuned for the next installment of the Sponsor Atlas: Discovering new Biotechs. If you enjoy these articles, please feel free to give them a share through the social links below!

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