Lentigen’s R&D deal with U.S. Army promotes lentiviral vectors

Lentigen Corp. recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC).

Jeffrey Bouley
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BALTIMORE—In what it is calling "another important milestone" in its work to cham­pion the use of lentiviral vectors in drug discovery, development and manufactur­ing, Lentigen Corp. recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC).
In this collaboration, Lentigen and the ECBC will collaborate on a variety of poten­tial research programs focusing on vaccine development, therapeutics and biodefense applications of lentiviral vectors. The parties note that the CRADA will provide Lentigen with access to ECBC's cGMP manufacturing facilities and services, but no specific details were released regarding financial terms.
The cGMP manufacturing capabilities are a particular draw for Lentigen, says Dr. Boro Dropulic, founder and CEO of Lentigen, saying, "We believe this CRADA will create a compelling combination that is likely to result in innovative and compelling new programs and technologies."
"Researching and developing products for biodefense applica­tions, pandemic disease and simi­lar uses is a natural application for our platform, so when the chance to work with the Army came along, we welcomed it," Dropulic says, adding that Lentigen has applied for various grants the Army is offering for other projects. "Our technology is basically a manufac­turing platform with which we can rapidly develop cell lines to pro­duce vaccines or monoclonal anti­bodies against targets of interest."
The technology provides not only speedy results but high yields, Dropulic says, which is important when dealing with bioterrorism and pandemic outbreaks.
But he is quick to point out that lentiviral vectors and his compa­ny's technology are about more than manufacturing benefits. The technology is also ripe for rap­idly producing cell lines for drug screening and validation efforts during the discovery process.
"It provides a very quick way to screen for toxicity," Dropulic explains, "and then once you've gotten past that step, you can use the same lentiviral vector to prod­uce a transgenic mouse—and lenti­viral vectors are the most efficient way to do that—and then test your candidate at the animal level."
Pharmaceutical companies are only now starting to recognize the value and wide range of uses for lentiviral vectors, Dropulic says, not only for cell line generation at the discovery level or manufac­turing, but also for potential gene therapies. He says this current deal, along with other milestones achieved by Lentigen, should help advance the technology.
Some of those other milestones include the launch late last year of a Web site allowing online cus­tom lentiviral vector design—the first such online resource of its kind, Dropulic says. The compa­ny recently completed a series A round of funding and is beginning on a series B round now. The com­pany is also engaged in developing a novel method to develop an influ­enza vaccine that can handle sea­sonal and pandemic strains and is involved in more than a dozen col­laborations with various academic organizations for therapeutics and vaccines.

Jeffrey Bouley

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