May 26, 2021 (FARGO, N.D.) – Agathos Biologics, a biotechnology company developing transformational science in biomanufacturing, biologic payload delivery, and cell and gene therapy within a strong ethical and moral framework, today announced the appointment of Jagadish Loganathan, Ph.D. as Director, Research and Development. Loganathan’s responsibilities include establishing research and development operations at Agathos’ Fargo, North Dakota facilities, recruiting and managing scientific staff, and leading internal and external programs.
Prior to joining Agathos Loganathan was a Scientist at the Indiana University School of Medicine where he studied the importance of the correct compartmentalization of different molecular signals mediated by natural compounds targeting cancer genes. His scientific experience includes work as a research associate at North Dakota State University (NDSU) targeting cancer cells in a hypoxic environment using nanoparticles and the molecular mechanism and pathophysiology of bronchial asthma in the different sexes. Previously as a postdoctoral fellow at NDSU he studied the chemotherapeutic effects of plant-derived small molecules and lentiviral vectors on pancreatic and lung cancer cells. Loganathan received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Madras in Chennai, India.
“We are pleased to have Jagadish join Agathos during this critical time as we build our research and development capabilities and team,” said James Brown, CEO. “His accomplishments and experience in molecular biology, cell culture, and microbiology will enable him to effectively lead our efforts to develop new materials and methods for biomanufacturing and use them in our therapeutic programs.”
“I am excited to bring my skills and expertise to Agathos Biologics and pursue our mission as the good science company,” said Loganathan. “Our novel biomanufacturing and therapeutic products will provide scientific and medical benefits without ethical concerns about the origin or source of materials used in their development. I look forward to using my experiences building laboratory operations and mentoring others to quickly establish Agathos as a leader in ethical biotechnology.”
First published by Endpoints News May 21, 2021
Written by John Carroll, Editor and Founder
For millions of Catholics around the world, the development of new vaccines to combat Covid-19 has sparked a moral dilemma. All the approved vaccines in use relied — in some fashion — on cell lines that were derived from aborted fetal tissue.
While church leaders accepted the vaccines and recommended their use to end the pandemic, a number also highlighted their preference for the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna over the J&J and AstraZeneca shots, which they noted were more heavily dependent on cell lines that they found morally objectionable.
That intense debate over cell lines that large numbers of people object to on moral grounds, widely used in therapeutic development programs, has now spawned a newly created upstart biotech which is absolutely determined to replace cell lines like the commonly used HEK293 — used to manufacture the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine — and PER.C6, a cell line based on human embryonic retina tissue used to manufacture the J&J jab. And they plan to use new gene editing tools to do an even better job at creating cell lines that no one could object to.
The company — Agathos — is tiny right now as it steps out on the biotech stage, but it’s being founded by a trio of experienced execs who have built up Aldevron, one of the world’s top manufacturers of plasmid DNA, mRNA, CRISPR/Cas9, vectors and more, serving the burgeoning world of gene therapy developers around the world.
The 3 are James Brown, Michael Chambers and John Ballantyne. Brown recently left Aldevron in Fargo, ND to join a small band of biotech entrepreneurs that have been quietly building a thriving little hub of their own in the environs around the CMO, which has specialized in cell and gene therapy. And he’s invested in the company alongside Chambers and Ballantyne, the two men who founded the company in the late ’90s and now find themselves in the midst of one of the biggest booms in biotech.
Their new company has 3 main focuses, says Brown:
• Biomanufacturing and cell line development.
• Payload delivery, whether it’s proteins or nucleic acids how they’re delivered.
• And then the in-house development of cell and gene therapies.
“We’re just getting started,” Brown tells me in a Zoom interview from newly leased space. He’s building the initial team now that will create a platform they plan to use themselves, and make available to others.
“This isn’t the case where we have a technology that’s looking to solve a problem,” Brown says. “We have a problem and we’re looking to solve it with technology.”
They’re not looking for a debate and have vowed to remain politically agnostic. But they think they can do a better job and offer new cell lines that would be preferable — if only because mass numbers of people shun pharma products that don’t square with their conscience.
“Our goals are to take advantage of the advances in cell and gene therapy, biomanufacturing and genetic payload delivery. We look at how drugs are manufactured, especially in cell and gene therapy, and think there are opportunities to do better,” says Brown.
“In particular one of the challenges that I think the field faces with some of these manufacturing processes and the materials that are used is that they are very good at what they do but they come from ethically problematic sources,” he adds. “We can use the tools that are available to develop these drugs and manufacture them without using morally compromised cell lines and avoid that choice that people have to make in following their conscience.
“If we had something that was just as good and a company looked at it and said: ‘I have something just as good, so why wouldn’t I choose that one because more people are going to buy my product?’”
I asked Michael Chambers via email why he was co-founding the biotech. His reply:
“There are a few reasons we are investing in Agathos. James is a talented scientist and CEO, and he is putting a world-class team together. We are primarily interested because Agathos meets an unmet need for millions of people from different faiths and backgrounds — the desire for technologically superior biomanufacturing cell lines and products without ethical concerns”
Just starting out, they’re focused on various mammalian cell lines that could offer a better alternative. Or, they might develop cell lines from scratch.
“Michael jokes, he’s like, ‘Go out and kill a jackrabbit and put it in a blender and create cell lines from scratch and develop them,” Brown says. “Because we have so many more tools with CRISPR and gene editing and whatnot, that we can manipulate these things. We want to use these tools to do new and innovative things and address some of the shortcomings.”
By the end of this year, says Brown, he expects the team will grow to 5 to 10 people. After that, he says, “the sky’s the limit.”
Company Will Pursue Innovation in Biotechnology Manufacturing and Therapeutics Through Ethical Research and Development
April 21, 2021 (FARGO, N.D.) – Agathos Biologics, a biotechnology company developing transformational science in biomanufacturing, biologic payload delivery, and cell and gene therapy within a strong ethical and moral framework, today announced the launch of its research and development operations. The company has established its laboratories and offices in the growing biotechnology corridor of Fargo, North Dakota.
The company was founded by biotechnology entrepreneurs James Brown, Michael Chambers and John Ballatnyne to pursue innovations in biotechnology that create value by positively impacting the health and welfare of society. Advances in biotechnology are transforming medicine, agriculture, and energy. Many of these advances are being developed or manufactured using materials whose origin raises significant ethical concerns for millions of people of diverse backgrounds. Agathos’ goal is to create biotechnology products and services free of ethical or moral compromises that prevent anyone from participating in their development or using them.
“We are excited to officially launch Agathos operations and follow our vision of ethically developed biotechnology products and services,” said Brown, who will serve as the CEO of Agathos. “The rapid pace of innovation and continued growth of investment in the field provide the opportunities that will allow us to be successful. We are confident this is the right time to challenge the status quo, which often forces a choice between doing high-quality (good) science and ethical (good) science and establish Agathos as “the good science company”. Brown added that Agathos is building its workforce with leadership announcements coming soon.
Chambers and Brown, along with John Ballantyne, who became an investor in Agathos this year, are funding the company. Chambers and Ballantyne co-founded Aldevron in 1998 and are currently Executive Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer, respectively, at Aldevron. Prior to leaving Aldevron to work full time as at Agathos in January 2021, Brown served in roles of increasing responsibility since joining the company in 2015, most recently as President of the Research Grade Nucleic Acids Business Unit. Prior to Aldevron Brown helped found Regenxbio in 2008, serving as Vice President of Technical Operations until 2015. Douglas VanderMeulen, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Fargo, will serve as the company’s senior ethical advisor.
“We believe it is important to communicate to all our stakeholders our goals, strategy, and perspective that drives how we are going to conduct business,” continued Brown. “Agathos Biologics – Good Science for a Better World” describes the company and our approach and is publicly available on our web site.”
About Agathos Biologics
Agathos Biologics is a biotechnology company pursuing transformational science in biomanufacturing, biologic payload delivery, and cell and gene therapy. Discoveries in bioprocessing and genetic characterization and control have created an abundance of scientific possibilities that can help us all lead better lives. Our mission as the good science company is to create breakthrough products and services within a strong ethical and moral framework that benefits everyone. We believe in science that serves and have a relentless focus on serving our clients, employees, and society.