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Ryan Cawood, PhD
Ryan Cawood, PhD
Founder and CEO, OXGENE

GEN: Why was OXGENE founded, and what is its focus?

I founded the company in 2011, based on my own experience in the lab, which identified that molecular biologists needed a quicker, easier, and more reliable way to engineer DNA. I wanted to create a system that meant scientists would be able to assemble DNA in the same way that kids play with Legos. We did this by building consistent DNA blocks with reproducible behaviors that could then be pieced together in any combination to make bigger sections of DNA. This is the SnapFast™ platform.

OXGENE works with pioneering cell and gene therapy companies looking to be first in the race to transform patients’ lives. We provide advanced gene therapy technologies that push the scientific boundaries of what’s possible, accelerating the timeline, and reducing development costs between discovery and biomanufacture.

 

GEN: How does the company accelerate the discovery, development, and biomanufacture of cell and gene therapies?

After developing SnapFast, we started exploring the potential of this molecular Lego-like system to directly address some of the challenges facing the cell and gene therapy industry. We redesigned adeno-associated virus (AAV) and lentivirus expression plasmids from the ground up. Thanks to the flexibility of SnapFast technology, we could design, test, and optimize DNA that increased the production of these gene therapy vectors at higher quality than anything else currently on the market.

We then expanded to start engineering cells to optimize them for virus production and implemented process development services to help cell and gene therapy companies scale up production of their therapeutic candidates.

More recently, we’ve created a completely new system for AAV manufacture called TESSA™ technology. TESSA stands for tetracycline-enabled self-silencing adenovirus. These are adenoviral vectors engineered to provide full AAV helper functionality with no adenoviral contamination. We think it’s going to be a real game changer—a fully scalable plasmid-, transfection-, and contaminant-free AAV production system that delivers higher titers and more infectious particles (serotype dependent) than transient, triple transfection production.

We’re currently in the process of commercializing this system, and the first batches of TESSA vectors to produce AAV2 and AAV6 are now with customers for evaluation. We aim to have optimized these vectors for all AAV serotypes and have them fully commercialized by the end of 2021.

We’ve also used our SnapFast technology to build DNA libraries that can be used for a range of discovery applications, including CRISPR target discovery, AAV capsid discovery, or to create ScFv libraries for CAR-T applications. We can now offer a full suite of discovery
solutions, including clonal cell lines containing complex gene edits for disease modeling and mode-of-action studies, CRISPR screening, antibody or CAR-T discovery, and affinity maturation using our proprietary SLIM display system and antibody humanization and small-scale production services.

 

GEN: What can we expect to see from OXGENE this year regarding new technology developments?

I think that 2021 is going to be an exciting year for OXGENE as we start to fully realize the potential of some of the innovations—like TESSA and SLIM—that we’ve spent the last few years developing. There are more cell and gene therapies now being developed and entering clinical trials than ever before. The entire industry feels poised to make the leap over the precipice into the mainstream therapeutics market.

I’m hopeful that over the next few years, OXGENE’s technologies will play a key role in overcoming the last obstacles of scalable and cost-effective manufacturing in the way of the companies ready to make that jump.

 

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