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Virica Biotech Receives Funding from Canadian Government to Support the Re-Development of the Worlds First Ever Gene Therapy

Anna Osborne
18 May 2022
Leading developer of scalable solutions for viral medicines, Virica Biotech, has announced collaboration with the Government of Canada to support the manufacturing of an AAV-LPL (lipoprotein lipase) gene therapy to treat lipoprotein lipase deficiency.

Phacilitate was joined by Virica Biotechs Scientific Founder and CEO, Dr Jean-Simon Diallo, who explained what this funding means for Virica’s support of this specific project, as well as its overall application in offering viral vector manufacturing expertise and facilities.

The $400,00 in funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) received by Virica will be used to support its work with the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada’s Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge program, as they revive the world’s first approved, and most expensive, gene therapy – Glybera.

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Glybera was a Canadian gene therapy innovation produced to treat lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD). It made headlines when it sold as the most expensive gene therapy priced at $1 million for a one-time dose.

Canada has the world’s largest population of patients with LPLD, clustered in Quebec. However, this first ever gene therapy was never offered commercially in Canada, and was pulled from European market after only one sale.

Researchers at the NRC are currently re-developing an affordable version of Glybera, using new viral vectors. The partnership with Virica will provide enhanced manufacturing capabilities for producing this new AAV-LPL (lipoprotein lipase).

Lipoprotein lipase deficiency is a debilitating and rare inherited disease in which a faulty gene prevents suffers from breaking down fat particles in their blood. Accumulating fat can lead to frequent, and potentially fatal, pancreatitis.

The Honorable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry commented, “Our government is proud to support companies like Virica Biotech as they work to make medical therapies more affordable through innovative solutions. The work Virica is undertaking can offer real hope to those suffering from a rare disease for which there are no treatments, and more so, could make it more affordable for Canadians.”

Collaborating with the NRC, Virica will deploy its custom Viral Sensitizer (VSE™) formulation to optimize a robust and scalable AAV vector manufacturing process – accelerating the next-generation gene therapy for LPLD.

Virica’s tailor-made VSEs™ prevent the production inefficiencies caused by innate anti-viral defences in manufacturing cells, to increase yield. This enables developers to economically scale their products due to a reduced cost of goods.

Jean-Simon Diallo commented, in regards to the impact this collaboration will have not only in Canada, but also globally  “In the short term what this means is it will actually allow for the NRC to achieve its goal to bring affordable gene therapies to Canada, [as the] manufacturing of AAV gene therapies is probably one of the most expensive parts of it. We’re really hoping that through the use of our technology they can significantly reduce the cost of goods, and that’s just the first step. We can have a tremendous impact globally, particularly when you think about applications like DMD and SMA where AAV requirements are astronomically high. I think this is where we’re going to have the largest impact.”

This collaboration news follows Virica’s recent announcement of another partnership – with cell and gene therapy company Oxford Biomedica, in January 2022. Virica’s VSEs ™ will be utilized to improve production efficiency and commercial yield of Oxford Biomedica’s novel LentiVector® platform for developing cell and gene therapies.

Sources: Virica Biotech Press releases, May 2nd 2022 and Jan 24th 2022

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