A biotechnology company looking to alleviate a problem in cell and gene therapy production emerged from “stealth” mode on Tuesday, unveiling itself alongside $64 million in funding.
Based in Philadelphia, VintaBio was founded by Junwei Sun and Shangzhen Zhou, two well-known researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Both founders have been instrumental to the development of viral vectors — essential tools used to ship helpful genetic material into cells — that were part of cell and gene therapy treatments now on the market.
Sun and Zhou were on the team behind Luxturna, the first gene therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration for an inherited disorder. Zhou was also involved with the development of Zolgensma, which treats the muscle-wasting disease spinal muscular atrophy, and the medicine that cured Emily Whitehead, who had acute lymphoblastic leukemia and was the first pediatric patient to receive what’s known as CAR-T cell therapy.
The medicine used to treat Whitehead would go on to be approved in 2017 under the brand name Kymriah.
As more companies entered the cell and gene therapy field, viral vector production became a bottleneck that has yet to be fixed. At VintaBio, the aim is to ease this bottleneck by manufacturing viral vectors. It’s an aim shared by other biotech startups, hospitals and large contract manufacturing organizations.
"I co-founded VintaBio to make sure viral vectors never prevent someone from receiving a life-changing treatment,” Zhou said in a statement, adding that the team at VintaBio wants to “provide the ability to scale cutting-edge therapies for thousands more in-need patients.”
VintaBio comes equipped with a 22,500-square-foot manufacturing facility in Philadelphia that’s now open and accepting orders from developers. The startup said construction of the facility was supported by the $64 million it raised — much of which came from Decheng Capital, an investment firm that focuses on early-stage life science companies.
VintaBio has also appointed David Radspinner as its CEO. Radspinner for years held leadership roles at Thermo Fisher Scientific and GE Healthcare, and, most recently, he served as president of biotherapeutics at the specialty manufacturing company ILC Dover.