Good science, our relentless focus

At Agathos we are pushing the boundaries of science without the ethical compromises that are often made in biotechnology.


The Agathos corporate strategy

We believe the success of Agathos depends on a clear, coherent, and focused corporate strategy. We respect those who address issues through political processes, education, and influence, and may participate in such endeavors personally; however, this is not the path that Agathos is pursuing. Our management team and employees have a limited amount of time and energy, and we will remain disciplined in how we use these resources. The strategy and day-to-day operations of Agathos will be focused on developing products and services and the company will not spend its resources on any political issues. We will eliminate such distractions because we believe it is good for business.

The shared goal of the Agathos team will be doing good science to create products and services people want and all who seek this goal are potential members of the team. As founders, we will be transparent about our motives for creating Agathos, and we recognize that others may not share these motives or agree with our positions. We have no political litmus test for any employee, consultant, collaborator, or anyone who wants to be part of the Agathos team. Hiring and partnering with the most talented individuals without enforcing allegiance to a political position or creed allows us to establish a diverse, inclusive, and world-class organization.

Focused on innovation and creation

Agathos’ disciplined strategy will focus on innovation and creation. There are those who are passionate about the use of aborted fetal tissue and are zealous in their desire to end the practice. This leads them to spend time and energy arguing that products manufactured with these cells are unsafe or lack efficacy. Unfortunately, in many cases the data are suspect, and this negatively impacts their credibility and others. Even if the data are compelling, their politics will always subject them to claims of bias and lack of objectivity. We recognize that cell lines obtained from aborted fetal tissue (AFT) have produced products that are safe, efficacious, and saved lives. Their use in research and development has contributed to many products that we take for granted and have improved human health. We will not waste time debating these facts.

We cannot put the genie back into the bottle—the best way to address the problem is with a better genie. Agathos’ strategy, the same as any company, to make better products, is clear and uncontroversial. Even those who have no ethical concerns recognize it is better from a pure business perspective to remove reasons for consumers not to purchase your product. And if consumers are presented with a better product—however they define “better”—their choice is also clear and uncontroversial.

Ethical dilemmas

Agathos will face the various ethical dilemmas that all companies face with the addition of decisions related to ethical biotechnology development. If one’s goal is to show one thing performs better than another thing, the logical experiment is a controlled one in which those two things are compared by subjecting them to identical circumstances and measuring their performance. The most clear and convincing data to show that a cell line performs better than another cell line would be generated by conducting the exact same experiments under as similar conditions as possible, ideally with the same equipment, laboratory, technicians, etc., even blinded where possible. If our goal is to replace cell lines derived from AFT, and the most convincing data would be from a head-to-head comparison of the potential replacement with the AFT cells, should we use AFT cells for these experiments? Is it morally acceptable to use the AFT cells if our goal is to replace them? This is a difficult decision, but we believe that it is. We will only use AFT cells in this limited way and will not use them in any other program as a general-purpose cell line. We recognize that others may not agree with this approach, but we believe only by generating the highest quality data possible will we be able to show we have created a better product. Additionally, if we did not do such experiments and published our data without the comparison, potential users of the product would invariably conduct head-to-head experiments anyway.

We realize there are those who will be critical of our approach from multiple angles
AFT cells have demonstrated utility in research and manufacturing and those who see no ethical issues would argue that the largest financial return and impact to patients would be achieved by improving them. This is a logical strategy, but it is not ours, because we cannot ignore the ethical issues. Another criticism is that immortalized cell lines established years ago do not require any more abortions beyond the one used to create them, and research and development that requires an ongoing supply of AFT cells is a graver moral issue. Where opportunities exist for us to reduce or eliminate such practices we would certainly do so, but our experience and expertise in cell and gene therapy puts us in a unique position to address this issue. Given the widespread use of HEK 293, PER.C6, and other AFT cells, this is still a significant concern. As others have noted, “one must [avoid] fostering a social climate of approval that would perpetuate the abuses and the injustices.”1

References and sources
1. Luño, V. Rev. A. R. Ethical Reflections on Vaccines Using Cells from Aborted Fetuses. National Cathol Bioeth Q 6, 453–459 (2006).