HIV drug discovery towards a cure

OYAGEN is a biotechnology company formed on September 5, 2003, for the purpose of discovering, developing, and commercializing novel pharmaceutical therapies that seek to exploit RNA editing and DNA editing enzymes. OyaGen holds exclusive rights to important technologies originating from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), the Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), and Oregon Health Science Center.

Over the past decade, a series of research advances have identified two families of related enzymes known as Editing Enzymes.  These enzymes are endogenous cellular proteins, which chemically alter RNA or DNA molecules and thereby change the genetic code. OyaGen believes that there is a significant opportunity to “harness the editing process” to create therapies for a number of disease states. OyaGen’s initial therapeutic focus is a novel approach to the treatment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This initial focus on HIV is driven by a series of ground breaking discoveries that:

  • Identified an Editing Enzyme present in immune system 1
  • Determined that HIV inhibits this Editing Enzyme as a vital part of the infection cycle 2
  • Demonstrated that allowing this Editing Enzyme to function halts HIV 1-3

OyaGen will pursue several proprietary assays in high throughput screening strategies for drug development. OyaGen seeks to bring to market the anti-HIV drugs targeting Vif and APOBEC3G that solve the problems of viral resistance, a major shortcoming of all current therapies. In the long run, the Company will draw on its core expertise in Editing Enzyme technologies to develop therapies for other disease states.

1 (Sheehy, et al. (2002) Nature 418, 646-650 & Zhang,  et al. (2003) Nature 424, 94-98)
2 (Mariani, et al. (2003) Cell 114, 21-31; Stopak, et al. (2003) Mol Cell 12, 591-601 & Yu, et al. (2003) Science 302, 1056-1060)
3 (Yang et al. (2003) J. Biol. Chem. 278:6596-6602)
4  (Wedekind, et al., (2005) mRNA Editing in Mammals: New Members of the APOBEC Family Seeking Roles in The Family Business.  Trends In Genetics 19:207-16).
5  (Jin et al. (2005)  APOBEC3G mRNA Levels Associate Inversely with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Viremia. J Virol. 79:11513–11516)
6  (Miller, et al. (2007)  The Dimerization Domain of HIV-1 Viral Infectivity Factor Vif is Required to Block Virion Incorporation of APOBEC3G. Retrovirology 4:81-92)
7  (Jin, X.et al., (2007) H.C. A3G Levels Predict Rates of Progression to AIDS.  Retrovirology 4:20-7)