WUR's Laboratory for Virology and Bioprocess engineering group together with biotech company VectorY Therapeutics will jointly develop new production technologies for the production of safe and affordable gene therapies based on baculoviruses. The collaboration is an important step in making gene therapy medically and economically viable for diseases that affect larger patient populations.
Gene therapy is a new method of treatment for hereditary diseases, whereby the DNA of the patient is repaired through the insertion of genetic material in order to cure the disease or to reduce long-term symptoms. The treatment can also be used for some non-hereditary diseases.
One of the most important challenges for the gene therapy industry is to develop robust and scalable manufacturing processes that yield safe therapies at significantly lower cost than currently possible. VectorY - which specialises in the development of innovative gene therapy approaches for the treatment of muscular disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's – is now making a major strategic investment in these therapies of the future, together with the Laboratory of Virology and the Bioprocess Engineering Group of WUR.
Baculovirus expression system
The strategy is based on the baculovirus expression system, which is already widely used for vaccine production and uses viruses that can only infect insect cells, the so-called baculoviruses.
The cooperation takes place through two projects, each carried out by a PhD student:
- Generation of optimized baculovirus constructs for the large-scale production of non-pathogenic Adenovirus-associated viral (AAV) vectors, needed to deliver the therapeutical DNA for gene therapies to human cells
- Design and evaluation of an intensified and scalable baculovirus-based AAV production process in bioreactors with insect cells, using the latest bioprocess technologies.
“We are very pleased to be collaborating with VectorY to develop next generation AAV expression systems and industry-leading bioprocessing capabilities”, said Monique van Oers, Professor of Virology, Wageningen University.
“We are honored to partner with Wageningen University, a significant pioneer in the Baculovirology and Bioprocessing field. This partnership will further strengthen VectorY’s proprietary AAV production technologies for the development of Next Generation Gene Therapies”, added Alexander Vos, CEO VectorY Therapeutics.