Propagenix Joins JHU Montgomery County Campus
A new company on campus is using cutting-edge technology in an attempt to help burn victims, diabetics, patients with airway injuries and respiratory diseases and other ailments.
Propagenix is a pre-clinical stage research and development cell therapy company that is developing and commercializing technology that originated in a lab at Georgetown University. The company also developed its own advanced cell propagation technology, called EpiX, which is aimed at cell therapy and regenerative medicine applications.
Propagenix joined the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus in May and is now among the approximately 35 companies located on campus.
“Our vision is to enable the creation of new and more effective cell therapies that will enhance human healthcare,” according to the company website.
The company was co-founded in 2014 by Dr. Brian Pollok, Propagenix’ chief executive. Conditional Reprogramming, Pollok explained, is a technology that enables scientists to grow normal and abnormal cells and keep the cell makeup identical to how it was in the human body.
For example, severe burn victims often require large skin grafts, which can be extremely painful to obtain from the patient. Using Conditional Reprogramming, however, skin cells can be taken using a punch biopsy and put into culture. Then, using the technology, cells are induced to rapidly grow and are also readily re-differentiated back to mature skin cells for transplantation to the patient. Preclinical programs also have shown the technology can be used to expand insulin-producing beta-cells, which would help diabetics, and to expand human airway cells, which would help those with airway injuries and respiratory diseases. The goal in many cases, Pollok explained, is autologous transplantation, meaning a transplant that uses the patient’s own cells rather than those of a genetically different donor.
The technology also can be used as an aid in developing personalized medicine. A typical biopsy, Pollok said, may yield only 100,000 cells, but ideally, researchers want to have millions of cells to analyze. That’s where Propagenix technology comes in. A tumor biopsy of malignant cells can be taken, for example, and, using the technology, the cells can multiply while retaining their malignant characteristics. This would help researchers determine which drugs might help the patient.
Propagenix has several collaborative research agreements with pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences companies, as well as Yale, University of North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Georgetown. Pollok said Propagenix also is collaborating with a Johns Hopkins University researcher on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Propagenix has eight employees and has plans to expand. The company had been in Gaithersburg before moving to JHU in Rockville. Propagenix has 4,200 square feet of lab space on campus.