Avectas: Redefining Intracellular Delivery for Gene and Cell Therapy

Dr. Michael Maguire  Co-founder & CEO, AvectasDr. Michael Maguire, Co-founder & CEO
Cell engineering has given new “hope” for untreatable diseases such as cancer. But, therapies based on modifications to cells are of no use if they can’t reach the patient. Today, significant challenges in manufacturing and analytical technologies constitute the biggest bottleneck in the cell and gene therapy market space.

Founded in 2012, as a spin-out from Maynooth University, Avectas addresses this bottleneck through the development of unique technology for ex vivo delivery of advanced molecules such as mRNA, proteins, and gene editing payloads for cell engineering applications. Avectas delivers tools to a range of cell types, including T cells for immuno-oncology applications. The brainchild of Dr. Michael Maguire and Dr. Shirley O’Dea, the CEO and CSO of Avectas respectively, the company enables drug developers to manufacture potent engineered cell therapies at therapeutic volumes, with better efficiency, and minimal cell disruption. “We founded the company to address the critical lack of solutions for the delivery of macromolecules concerning gene and cell therapy application.

We offer sophisticated delivery technologies which can accommodate the needs of therapeutic developers toward more sophisticated therapies,” asserts Maguire.

Unlike the present industry standard of vector-free delivery methods such as electroporation, cells engineered with Avectas’ novel vector-free cell engineering technology platform—Solupore—require less recovery time, leading to a shorter, simpler, more cost-effective manufacturing process.

We founded the company to address the critical lack of solutions for the delivery of macromolecules into cells for gene and cell therapy application

The company developed Solupore for intracellular delivery and manufacturing in the immuno-oncology space, including CAR-T and gene editing. Solupore combines novel chemistry and device technology to efficiently engineer therapeutic cells, at scale, while maintaining optimal cell functionality and improving cell processing times and cell health. The solution’s uniqueness lies in its simple, rapid, and gentle process that yields superior engineered cells with minimum perturbation of the treated cell. The platform utilizes a chemical membrane disruption approach to deliver advanced molecules to cells rapidly.

Moreover, engineered cells with it show enhanced proliferation profile in comparison to cells engineered with other tools. “Our technology is developed to be GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) regulations aligned and to be operated at an appropriate scale for autologous therapies and allogeaic therapies. We aim to collaborate with leading cell and gene therapy businesses and academic institutions to address their cell engineering challenges using Solupore,” explains Maguire.

Shirley O’Dea, CEO and CSO
With a cross-disciplinary team of immunologists, biologists, and engineers, the company plans to extend its market reach by accelerating its manufacturing solution’s commercialization process. Driven by the idea of continuous improvement and innovation, Avectas has been continually improving and developing cutting-edge technologies to help cure cancers. Their approach and expertise recently brought about two investments: €2.1 million under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program in 2018 and $10 million in equity in April 2019.

“Our vision is to be the gold standard in vector-free intracellular delivery. These significant endorsements provide us with the financial resources to accelerate the development, scale-up, and commercialization of Solupore. Our main aim now is to partner with companies and institutes that have their main focus on developing the next generation of cancer therapies,” states Maguire.