Some of the worst diseases in the world are caused by viruses. AIDS, Herpes, Rabies, Hepatitis B and C, and Ebola are just some of the examples. Right now, there are few remedies for treating viruses, however, Erez Livneh’s team of scientists at Vecoy Nanomedicines is trying to battle them in an innovative way.
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Vecoy Nanomedicines is a privately held company based out of Bar Ilan’s Nanotechnology Center in Ramat Gan. The company is considered a leader in the application of nanomedicine technologies to the complex issues of viral diseases. “What we are doing is creating nanoparticles that mimic human cells,” Livneh tells NoCamels, “on the exterior, they are identical to human cells.” These synthetic cells lure viruses into them, and subsequently kill them. “Viruses actually charge into [an] open door to their doom. Our synthesized cells are virus decoys. We can imitate any type of cell we choose to lure any type of virus,” says Livneh.
Vecoy’s six-person team creates these cells from polymers in the lab, and can create new decoy cells in a matter of weeks. According to Livneh, this is “far quicker than creating a new drug [for a new virus]. It is a rapid solution to an [immediate] crisis.”
A cure for AIDS?
Vecoy Nanomedicines’ future drugs are based on a fully drafted pending patent, currently at PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) stage. The company plans to work on several synthetic cell development programs including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS), Pandemic Influenza (including Asian Bird Flu Virus) and Hepatitis C and B Viruses. The market size for anti-viral treatment is estimated to be worth over $40B in 2013 alone.
The Israeli company was incorporated in October 2010 after Livneh completed Singularity University’s 10-week Graduate Studies Program at NASA in California. The Graduate Studies Program was a meeting point for 80 scientists and entrepreneurs from 35 countries, and this is where Vecoy’s technologies first got recognition.
Unlike existing antiviral treatments that target infected human cells, Vecoy’s treatment targets the viruses before a cellular infection takes place. Says Livneh,
The company is now conducting experiments with the virus decoys on living viruses in cell cultures and living organisms: “[We have] already shown that we can inactivate 97% of the viruses in cell culture. These are just initial results. [We are] aiming for 99 percent,” says Livneh.
Still years away from human trials
Right now, the company is testing its technology on cockroaches, and intends to begin testing on larger animals in 2013. “It will take about 4-5 years before we get into human trials. We are taking all precautions. This is not something to be haste [in].”
Livneh received his Masters degree in Life-Sciences at the Weizmann institute of science. For the past 10 years, Livneh has conducted bio-research in both the academic and private biotech arenas. “I have always been fascinated by viruses. The fact is that viral medicine is one of more stagnated fields in medicine today. (I wanted to) do something meaningful with science for the good of all,” he tells NoCamles.
The company is currently backed by a private investor (who wishes to remain anonymous), and is beginning a new round of funding in the coming weeks to raise money for clinical trials.
Photo by Microbe World