Jessica Schwaber, Scientific Director, Cell & Gene Therapy, Avectas, sat down with me to discuss her company’s unique cell engineering platform, the recent shift in cell & gene therapy commercial needs, current barriers to realizing the full potential of cell & gene therapy, and much more.
Here is a sneak peek of our conversation:
Q: We’ve been using viral or non-viral technologies, basically injecting something and creating the cells to make something for you. What are some of the disadvantages of that methodology, basically the problem statement, and why you are perfecting that process or making that better?
A: Viral technology has been used for a long time and it’s a fantastic approach. I would say, from a safety viewpoint, it can integrate into anywhere within your genome. Comparatively, another common method uses electroporation – it induces electrical current to the cell to be able to temporarily disrupt the cell membrane and allow material to transfer into the cell.
Now, of course, cells don’t exactly appreciate being electrocuted so we find the cells are less healthy post-processing and can even result in not functioning as well. They often don’t divide afterward or they may not actually carry for the function even though the cargo may have been delivered to them. One other drawback, just to touch on in terms of viral vectors, is that they can only deliver any sort of nucleic acid cargo. When you’re also looking in terms of that, it limits the capabilities compared to what we’re developing. We’re able to deliver everything from nucleic acids to small molecules to proteins, even including what’s really popular today, which is CRISPR.
I’m going to touch on one more thing, and that is manufacturing. If we’re talking about using viral vectors because it’s so popular, the manufacturing is actually backed up, it’s quite extensive and it’s quite hard to get your foot in the door in that space right now. There are also limitations if you’re trying to develop a therapy very quickly, now it’s hard to get your foot in that space.
For more of our discussion, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat with Jessica Schwaber, or listen to the podcast version, below.
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