Rochester Start-Up Offers Groundbreaking Discovery in HIV Research
OyaGen Pioneers Way to Liberate Editing Enzyme to Disable HIV
Medical Center (URMC) today announced that the University Technology Seed Fund will invest in the formation of OyaGen, Inc., a start-up company which has identified four potential AIDS therapeutics which can chemically modify and destructively alter HIV’s DNA so that it no longer codes for the production of new virus.
This development has enormous scientific significance and market potential. Current HIV drugs, while successful in extending the life of AIDS victims, all ultimately prove ineffective because the high mutation rate of HIV’s DNA enables it to adapt, become resistant, and survive in the presence of antiviral drugs. In contrast, OyaGen’s anti-HIV therapeutics should cause “catastrophic mutation” of the viral code and solve the intractable problem of viral resistance. Many in the AIDS scientific community are beginning to suggest this tactic may be the most effective HIV disabling mechanism ever discovered. OyaGen’s lead compounds have been successfully tested in cell cultures but remain to be validated in animal models and human clinical trials.
OyaGen is founded on the technology and research program of Dr. Harold Smith, professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at URMC, who will serve as OyaGen’s Chief Scientific Officer. To bring these new anti-HIV drugs to market, OyaGen will be collaborating with Dr. Hui Zhang, an HIV researcher and associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who will serve as a scientific advisor to the Company.
Along with Dr. Smith’s active participation, the early business development efforts were led by Trillium Venture Development, manager of the Seed Fund, in collaboration with the Technology Transfer Office at URMC and the Simon School which provided a summer intern to the project. Members of the Trillium Venture Development Team will serve as interim executive managers and Bill Carpenter, former Chairman & CEO of Bausch & Lomb, is on the Board of Directors.
“The University of Rochester Medical Center is pleased to be an integral part of this exciting new development in HIV research,” said C. McCollister (Mac) Evarts, senior vice president and vice provost for health affairs, and Medical Center CEO. “OyaGen represents a true collaborative effort in the Rochester community, and signifies the strength of our resources.”
Because of market need, HIV drugs typically experience rapid market adoption and peak market revenues between $250 million and $1 billion. If successful through all phases of its clinical trials, OyaGen’s first anti-HIV drug should be market-ready by 2010. “The HIVEE drugs that could be developed by OyaGen represent a new frontier in HIV therapeutics,” said Jose’ Coronas, General Partner of Trillium Group, the fund manager of the University Technology Seed Fund.
Once the Company’s anti-HIV drugs are optimized, OyaGen will shift its focus to other disease states whose cure may involve a similar therapeutic mechanism, i.e., chemical modification of specific RNA or DNA molecules that may be involved in disease onset or reversal.
Trillium Group, LLC, is a venture capital and commercial development company specializing in start-up and early stage businesses. The Trillium Group team includes Judy Albers, José J. Coronas, Dennis M. DeLeo, Bud Frame, Chris O’Donnell, Kevin J. Phelps and Frank P. Strong, Jr.
For information, contact Trillium Group at 585-383-5680, or visit the firm’s web site at www.trillium-group.com.