The idea is to develop proprietary, next generation AAV expression systems and industry-leading bioprocessing capabilities.
The parties are looking to enable the production of safe AAV gene therapies with lower cost of goods sold (COGs) to facilitate treatment of diseases with large patient populations.
The bioprocess engineering and virology groups at Wageningen University and VectorY will work together on two projects, one of which will utilize the molecular toolbox to generate innovative stable baculovirus genome seeds for AAV production at large scale. The second project will focus on the design and evaluation of an intensified and scalable baculovirus production process in bioreactors.
The R&D work will take place at both Wageningen University and at VectorY’s facilities.
In terms of the likely timescale for the development of these baculovirus based technologies, Barbara Sanders VP, vector development, VectorY, told BioPharma-Reporter each of the projects is set to run for four years.
“However, we plan to have novel baculovirus seeds available onwards from the second year of the virology program. The bioprocessing project will evaluate baculovirus infection kinetics and develop intensified AAV production processes as part of the collaboration.”
Benefits of baculovirus-based AAV production
The baculovirus based system conveys many benefits for AAV production, she said.
“Firstly, it is an established production system compatible with GMP production with many licensed products on the market.
“The baculovirus-insect cell system shows safety benefits as usage of insect cells does not propagate mammalian viruses and there is no packaging of helper DNA plasmids; packaging of plasmid DNA encoding for capsid proteins may result in AAV-directed immune responses.”
How will the technology result in gene therapies with significantly lower COGs?
“The insect (Sf9-derived) cells grow in suspension to high cell densities without supplementation of serum or microcarriers, which increases volumetric productivity and lowers COGs. Furthermore, molecular optimization of the baculovirus and AAV constructs will result in higher yields of fully packaged virus, thus lower COGs per dose.
“The optimization studies for the production process will aim to improve yields by evaluating infection parameters for baculovirus and AAV production as well as developing intensified production steps together with improved process analytics, which are also expected to result in lower COGs,” said Sanders.
VectorY, which launched in October 2020, raised €31m in seed financing in June 2021 to develop next-generation gene therapies aimed at muscular and CNS disorders, based on a novel AAV gene therapy platform and antibody-based targeted degradation technologies.
The oversubscribed round was co-led by founding investor Forbion and a leading global investment firm. BGV and Eli Lilly & Company also joined the syndicate.