Serina Therapeutics is one of HudsonAlpha’s original associate companies. Dr. Tacey Viegas, Serina’s chief operating officer, answers questions about the company, their work and HudsonAlpha.
Q: When was Serina Therapeutics founded?
Serina Therapeutics was incorporated in the fall of 2006. We started our first chemistry experiment in November of that year in a small laboratory in downtown Huntsville.
Q: What does Serina do?
Serina Therapeutics is a "Pharmaceutical Drug Delivery Company." We have designed and manufactured a new generation of biopolymers that can be used in pharmaceutical products. These "POZ systems" have improved chemical properties, are safer, and have wide applicability.
Q: Please tell us about your world-renowned team.
Serina was co-founded by Drs. Milton Harris and Michael Bentley. Dr. Harris was a Professor in Chemistry at the University of Alabama. His first company, Shearwater Polymers successfully created, manufactured and partnered its PEG technology for about 20 product candidates, some of which went on to be block buster drugs with over $5 billion in annual sales.
Dr. Bentley was a Professor in Chemistry at the University of Maine. As the head of the research and development team at Shearwater, he was able to apply the PEG technology to improve the in-vivo pharmacodynamic behavior of a number of small therapeutic molecules. This technology now forms the basis of multiple products in human clinical trials, including for the treatment of cancer and opioid-induced constipation.
I worked with Dr. Bentley in R&D at Shearwater and managed the early development activities for both synthetically and biologically derived therapeutic drugs.
Mr. Remy Gross worked with Dr. Harris in PEG operations at Shearwater. During this time, he directly managed the development of the polymers used in Cimzia®, Macugen®, PEGASYS®, Neulasta®, Somavert®, Definity® and PEG-Intron®.
Q: When did Serina move into the HusdonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology?
Serina management was always interested in the growth of biotechnology research in North Alabama, so when the opportunity arose for Serina to be part of the HudsonAlpha campus, we did not hesitate to say "yes." The scientists moved into the building along with the first wave of associates in January of 2008.
Q: Has the relationship with HudsonAlpha been as successful as you have anticipated?
From the first day! The HudsonAlpha Board of Directors has been very supportive of Serina and the other associates in the building. The HudsonAlpha staff is very helpful in supporting Serina’s day-to-day operations, such as purchasing, shipping and receiving, facilities maintenance, and IT support. Our business partners are intrigued by the lay-out of the building and the co-operative spirit that each associate company brings to the table…something not seen in "Corporate America.”
Q: Who stands to benefit the most from your products, technologies and research?
Patients will find that these medicines are potent but safe, dosed less frequently and easy to handle and store. This will allow lower and manageable costs for the next generation of medicines.
Q: How did you come up with the name "Serina?”
The name comes from the word Serinus, which is the genus of several species of small birds, including the canary. These birds are "bold and beautiful," i.e. a good representation of the potential of our drug delivery polymer platforms.
Q: What is next for Serina?
Serina Therapeutics will continue its current collaboration with pharma partners and academic researchers. In 2010, Serina will take this technology to wider global markets and will initiate limited clinical evaluation in a number of disease states.