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Company Inviragen Inc.

INITIAL LIGHT BULB: After working together researching vaccines for companion animals at Heska Corp. in the 1990s, Drs. Dan Stinchcomb and Jorge Osorio reconnected in 2005, founding Inviragen, a startup aiming to commercialize vaccines for emerging infectious diseases. The plan is to take vaccines for dengue fever, West Nile disease, the plague and smallpox (a combination vaccine), and avian influenza, aka the bird flu, to market.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, in working with vector-borne viruses (viruses that hop a ride on another organism, whether it's a mosquito or a swallow) developed vaccines for both dengue fever and West Nile in-house over the last decade. Stinchcomb and Osorio heard about it through the northern Colorado biotech grapevine. So the pair approached the CDC and inked an exclusive worldwide license just over three years ago.

"They were very interested in commercializing the vaccines," Stinchcomb said. He and Osorio elected to add the plague and smallpox vaccine to the research and development docket because of the diseases' potential in bioter-rorism, and the bird flu because of its potential to become a deadly worldwide epidemic.

Now seven employees strong, Inviragen is targeting the second half of 2008 to start clinical testing; a successful test could mean a vaccine hitting the market in five to 10 years.

IN A NUTSHELL: The CDC's vaccines for dengue fever and West Nile disease, now widespread in the United States, were well-developed in the 1990s and 2000s, but Inviragen scientists have tweaked their genetics to make them more effective against broader ranges of related diseases--there are four types of dengue fever, for example.

"The dengue and the West Nile technologies are based on a C Dengue 2 vaccine that was clinically tested many years ago in Thailand," Stinchcomb said. "The CDC researchers took that vaccine and sequenced it and found out where the attenuating mutations were, and then manipulated it genetically so it would express new antigens."

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The Inviragen plan calls for the company to start clinical testing on its dengue fever vaccine in the second half of 2008. To make its vaccines, Inviragen has partnered with India-based Shantha Biotech, a World Health Organization-approved vaccine manufacturer.

Further down the road, Inviragen will launch clinical trials on plague-smallpox and avian influenza vaccines. "We're trying to develop a vaccine that would protect against an aerosol version of the (plague) bacterium," Stinchcomb said. "And we're doing that with a viral vector that will simultaneously protect against smallpox. With bird flu, we're taking a novel approach as well. We're using the same sort of technology we've been using with the plague."

THE MARKET: Of Inviragen's four target diseases, dengue fever is the most widespread, afflicting more than 50 million globally and killing some 20,000 people a year. "We think there is a real attractive market for a dengue vaccine," Stinchcomb said, citing burgeoning economies in developing countries where dengue is a problem as well as the public health-care market and travelers.

FINANCING: Inviragen has to date secured $5 million in grants, mostly from the National Institute of Health, as well as some contributions from seed investors. Stinchcomb said the company is currently looking for $6 million to $8 million in private capital.

WHERE: FORT COLLINS | FOUNDED: JANUARY 2005 | WWW.INVIRAGEN.COM
"WE'RE REALLY EXCITED TO NOT ONLY BE SUCCESSFUL FROM A BUSINESS
STANDPOINT, BUT ALSO REALLY IMPROVE PUBLIC HEALTH. WE BELIEVE WE CAN DO
BOTH."
--Inviragen co-founder Dr. Dan Stinchcomb
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Title Annotation:TECH STARTUP
Author:Peterson, Eric
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:576
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