Vector BioMed raised $15 million in a first round of funding as the startup looks to help fill a big gap in the manufacture of cell and gene therapies.
The latest entry into the CDMO viral vector arena will be able to produce lentiviral vectors at scale as well as offer vector design and optimization, preclinical GMP manufacturing and other services, the company said in a Jan. 31 press release. Viral vectors are engineered viruses used to deliver gene therapies and gene-modified cell therapies as well as certain vaccines.
Viking Global Investors and Casdin Capital led the funding round, a spokesperson from Vector BioMed said.
In conjunction with the funding and launch, co-founder Boro Dropulić was named as chief executive of the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based company. Dropulić also led a team that was the first to demonstrate the safety of lentiviral vectors in humans. He also founded Lentigen, which developed the lentiviral vector used in Kymriah, the first FDA-approved gene therapy, which is approved for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
"With the FDA granting approval of several gene therapy products, there is now a tremendous demand for the manufacture of lentiviral vectors, which are critical for clinical trials and commercialization,” Dropulić said in the release. “Vector BioMed aims to transform the industry by providing algorithm-optimized, high-titer and high-quality lentiviral vectors for partners that seek to move quickly to clinical trials and commercialization.”
The backlog of manufacturing viral vectors for cell and gene therapies was recognized as an issue before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which only further fueled the demand for cell and gene therapies. Currently, the manufacturing backlog is thought to be as much as 16 to 18 months behind.
With the FDA expected to approve as many as 13 new cell and gene therapies in 2023—falling within the 10-20 range that the regulatory agency predicted it would green light every year by 2025—the manufacturing bottleneck is only too apparent. On top of that, there are more than 2,000 clinical trials underway, and about 200 of those are phase 3 trials.