GenPhar Inc., co-founded in 1999, this week unveiled its platforms in molecular diagnostics, vaccines and cancer therapeutics, which all have evolved from technology discovered by two of its co-founders, including its chief scientific officer.
The Mount Pleasant, S.C., company, having secured $8 million in funding from 60 individual investors, is forging ahead first with its diagnostics platform. Chief Scientific Officer John Dong said he expects to launch this year its HIV drug resistance test. Dong said third-party estimates place the market for such a diagnostic at $50 million to $100 million annually.
With this revenue stream, GenPhar plans to proceed with a treatment for solid tumors, which it said has been shown to have minimal side effects. The company filed an investigational new drug application and plans to be in the clinic by early next year, Dong said.
GenPhar also has developed a genetic vaccine platform that can be adapted to prevent several diseases, and the company is working on vaccines for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and Marburg virus.
GenPhar is partnered with the National Institutes of Health, of Bethesda, Md., and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases for some of these vaccines.
GenPhar’s multivalent vaccines have demonstrated immunogenicity for different subtypes and mutations of HIV and hepatitis B. GenPhar is testing the vaccine for hepatitis C internally. The NIH will fund and conduct its own trials for GenPhar’s multivalent HIVB-1 vaccine in rhesus monkeys, and GenPhar entered a collaborative research and development agreement with the U.S. Army to test a multivalent vaccine for Marburg virus. The Army also is considering working with GenPhar to develop a vaccine for hemorrhagic diseases, including the Ebola virus, which in today’s environment might be considered a bioterrorism threat.
The company said no other vaccine technology to date has demonstrated a capability of inducing natural production of both neutralizing antibodies and a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte or cellular immune responses.
Dong said he expects to have an AIDS vaccine in about three years.
The company also would like to generate revenue with its vaccine platform by becoming a manufacturer of the vaccines it develops for the government, said William Shannon, vice president for clinical and scientific affairs at GenPhar.
Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Steve Hutchinson said the company has not needed to join forces with a pharmaceutical company for financial reasons, yet. GenPhar has acted on the belief that it will be able to secure better commercial arrangements if it can carry development further on its own.
“That’s the decision we’ve made to date,” Hutchinson said, explaining that the development work GenPhar has done thus far has not been capital intensive.
Still, he notes, that will change over time.