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A Rockville biotech company specializing in gene therapy announced plans to expand, with the goal of doubling its work force within five years.
Regenxbio started in 2015 with 12 employees. It currently employs 150 people.
Utilizing a $700,000 conditional state loan and a $100,000 conditional grant from the County, Regenxbio CFO Vit Vasista is optimistic that the company will employ approximately 300 people within five years.
The company currently operates out of several offices in the Shady Grove area. It will move into a new 132,000-square-foot research and development facility at the Alexandria Life Science and Translational Research Center at Medical Center Drive in Rockville by 2020.
The new location allows the company to conduct its manufacturing, research and development, and regulatory departments under one roof.
The new location “is perfect on many different levels,” Vasista said. By locating all departments under one roof, employees will be able to hold “hallway conversations, percolate ideas and bounce ideas off one another,” he said.
“The building allows us to grow and enable us to build our own manufacturing facility,” which currently is not done in-house, Vasista said.
The new location is so close to its current offices, that employee commute times won’t be affected, he said.
Vasista called it “an enormous plus that we are so close to FDA, NIH and great universities where there is great talent,” he said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.
He predicted the new location will “make our recruitment easier.”
“I would say we are incredibly excited,” he said, adding “Montgomery County is a great place.”
The company is on the cutting edge of gene therapies that are designed to help those with such diseases as wet age-related macular degeneration, Hunter syndrome, and late-infantile Batten disease.
Regenxbio uses AAV (Adeno-Associated Virus) vector technology, injecting specific viruses into the affected person’s body that then begin producing a protein the person is missing. It uses viral vectors to deliver genes to cells to combat genetic defects or enable cells in the body to produce therapeutic proteins that can positively impact a specific disease.
For example, treatment for people with hemophilia, a disease in which a person’s blood doesn’t clot normally, usually entails going to a doctor several times a week and getting an injection.
AAV enables the person to begin producing their own protein, thereby greatly reducing the number of injections needed.
Regenxbio also uses AAV for wet age-related macular degeneration and a form of hypercholesterolemia, in which a person has difficulty processing cholesterol, with the goal of enabling the patient’s body to heal itself by making new protein.
Other companies do the same work, Vasista said. Regenxbio is unusual, however, in that “we own all the intellectual property around the viral vectors.”
The company actually began in 2009 in Washington, D.C., and mostly granted licenses for technicians to use its ideas. Then, in 2014, Vasista and Kenneth Mills, president and CEO of Regenxbio, decided “we had to build a real company, not just a virtual company,” Vasista explained.
When announcing that Maryland Commerce had approved the $700,000 loan through Advantage Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said, “Supporting innovative and growing companies like Regenxbio reinforces Maryland’s standing as a leading biotech cluster and a global hub for the development of cutting-edge treatments, diagnostics and cures.”