Caring Cross Spins Out Biomanufacturing Company Vector BioMed
A spin-out of Caring Cross, newly-launched Vector BioMed brings Boro Dropulić one step closer to his dream of bringing affordable cell and gene therapy treatments to the market.
Based in Gaithersburg, Vector BioMed is the first B Corp to be spun out of Caring Cross, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the development of advanced medicines and enabling access to cures for all patients. Caring Cross is developing cell therapy treatments for HIV and other diseases, including various oncology indications and the blood disorders sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. The organization intends to develop cost-effective therapies that will be passed along to patients. Dropulić is Executive Director of Caring Cross and will serve as Chief Executive Officer of the newly-established Vector BioMed.
Dropulić is well-versed in the development of Lentiviral vectors. He has more than three decades of experience in the design, development, manufacturing, clinical translation, regulatory, clinical implementation, and commercialization of Lentiviral vector technology. At the University of Pennsylvania, Dropulić and his colleagues first demonstrated the safety of lentiviral vectors in humans.
Dropulić also founded the company Lentigen, which developed the lentiviral vector used to produce Novartis’ CAR-T cell therapy, Kymriah, the first such therapy approved by the FDA.
Dropulić believes Vector BioMed’s approach to biomanufacturing will offer a solution to the industry’s current vector supply bottleneck through its “at scale” tactic. Dropulić pointed to the success of CAR-T treatments for cancer, as well as gene therapies for rare diseases. Two of the four FDA-approved gene therapies are lentiviral vector-based approaches. Both of those therapies approved in 2022 were developed by bluebird bio for cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy and beta thalassemia. Dropulić said that success has bred an “exponential demand” for manufacturing capacity and reagents, notably custom lentiviral vectors, which are the preferred method for delivery of genes into therapeutic cellular populations.
Dropulić said there is currently an 18–24-month backlog for lentiviral vector manufacturing services. Vector BioMed will address the demand due to its position to offer improved solutions that include algorithm-optimized vectors, which are able to ensure “superior vector titer and function,” he said. Additionally, the company can provide a platform serum-free suspension vector manufacturing process suitable for rapid clinical development and scalable for commercialization, he said.
Biomanufacturing is a cornerstone industry in the Maryland life sciences ecosystem. Dropulić said the newly-launched Vector differentiates itself from other companies due to its “specialization as a solution provider.” He said Vector BioMed has a platform technology and process that will rapidly supply its partners with high-titer Lentiviral vectors.
“All that a partner needs is to tell us the gene they want to deliver, what cell type they want to deliver to, and the disease they are targeting. Vector BioMed then uses its experience and proprietary algorithms to develop and manufacture the most optimal Lentiviral vector to meet the needs of the desired therapeutic candidate,” said Dropulić.
Beyond that, Dropulić said Vector BioMed provides its partners with a scalable manufacturing process. He noted that resources are wasted when companies must acquire a large lot of GMP vector, even if that is only to satisfy the need for a smaller amount, such as in early- to mid-stage clinical trials.
“Vector BioMed aims to transform the industry by providing algorithm-optimized, high-titer, and high-quality Lentiviral vectors for partners that seek to move quickly to clinical trials and commercialization. Our team has decades of experience manufacturing lentiviral viral vectors, providing tremendous value for our partners,” he added.
“Now is the perfect time to launch our business. With the FDA granting approval of several gene therapy products, there is now a tremendous demand for the manufacture of lentiviral vectors, which are critical for clinical trials and commercialization.” Vector BioMed’s launch is supported by a first round of funding led by Viking Global Investors and Casdin Capital. Financing from the first round will be used to accelerate the company’s commercial operations by providing clients with rapid access to high-quality lentiviral vectors. The company will also provide “turnkey solutions” for vector design and optimization for clients. Vector BioMed received the first tranche of $7.5 million in funding. An additional tranche of $7.5 million is expected to follow.