Q: When and where did EGEN begin?
A: EGEN was originally incorporated in Utah in 1998 and existed as a semi-virtual company for several years and then moved to Huntsville in 2002, where it has been ever since. We jumped at the chance to move our business to HudsonAlpha when it opened.
Q: Why did you move to HudsonAlpha?
A: We felt that HudsonAlpha represented a unique opportunity for working in a world-class biotech environment and that the combination of academic research on the Institute side and the commercial research and development on the Associate side would afford EGEN additional capabilities in achieving its goals.
Q: How is EGEN helping fight ovarian cancer?
A: EGEN’s lead clinical product (what we call EGEN-001) is a gene therapy that has potent anti-cancer properties. EGEN-001 is a nanocomplex containing a synthetic interleukin-12 (IL-12) gene with EGEN’s proprietary gene carrier system. The IL-12 gene therapy acts by stimulating the immune system against tumor cells and inhibiting tumor blood vessel growth. We have completed two FDA Phase I clinical trials of EGEN-001, administered alone or in combination with chemotherapy, and these studies have demonstrated good safety and an encouraging efficacy profile in our treated patient population (patients with recurrent ovarian cancer). We are currently planning two Phase II clinical trials examining EGEN-001 both alone as a monotherapy and in combination with chemotherapy. These trials will be conducted through the Gynecological Oncology Group (GOG), which is supported by the National Cancer Institute. Having the GOG participate in the clinical development of EGEN-001 will broaden our efforts and we are anxious to initiate this next stage of clinical testing sometime in early 2010.
Q: Does EGEN work on treatments for other diseases?
A: Actually, one advantage of the IL-12 therapy is that it can be used against many different types of tumors. Initially we have focused on recurrent ovarian cancer, but we have compelling data for use against glioblastomas (brain cancer) as well as other cancers that disseminate into the abdomen. We are hopeful that over the next 12-18 months we will be able to not only conduct more advanced clinical trials in patients with ovarian cancer, but also initiate Phase 1 clinical trials against 1 or 2 additional indications. We also have collaborators that are using our technology for developing gene therapies for treating myocardial ischemia that results from heart attack. In this case, the gene therapy is used to overexpress a gene called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) from our proprietary gene expression system that is designed to promote growth of new blood vessels, specifically in ischemic heart tissue.
Q: Has the relationship between EGEN and HudsonAlpha been as successful as you anticipated?
A: Yes. We see the HudsonAlpha/Associate relationship as a synergistic one. By utilizing the services that HudsonAlpha offers, EGEN is able to access resources more easily, such as the summer intern program, in-house services for repair and maintenance, purchasing power through the Institute, and closer relationships with other Associates. EGEN is also able to offer its unique capabilities and knowledge to HudsonAlpha and the other Associates. Additionally, having the Institute and the Associates together makes for a closer-knit biotech community, allowing all of us to be more familiar with the current state of the industry in Alabama.