Biotech company Viral Genetics, Inc., (Pink Sheets:VRAL), is relocating its research facilities to the life science cluster in Georgetown, Texas. Lead scientist Dr. Karen Newell has joined the faculty of Texas A&M University's College of Medicine and has received a $750,000 grant to research bio-fuels from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. Viral Genetics has optioned the rights through the University of Colorado to develop commercial applications from Newell's research, including potential applications for bio-fuels and drug therapies for HIV/AIDS, Lyme Disease, cancer, strep and staph.
“The move to Georgetown provides us with the ability to partner with Texas A&M”
The move was the result of a joint effort by the Texas Life Sciences Collaboration Center (TLCC), the State of Texas and Opportunity Austin. Dr. Newell also expects to continue working with the University of Colorado.
Viral Genetics' new laboratory is a new, 2,000 square foot facility located in the heart of Georgetown's life science cluster.
Newell's grant is dedicated to researching bio-fuel applications based on her metabolic disruption technology. The same line of research is being investigated for its potential to address drug resistant cancer cells.
"The move to Georgetown provides us with the ability to partner with Texas A&M," said Haig Keledjian, the CEO of Viral Genetics. "This grant validates an exciting line of research into increasing yields of plant oils including algae bio-fuel and agricultural oils such as palm or corn oil."
Viral Genetics will initially start with a small staff in its research facility. Plans are for the company to commercialize its patented processes and ultimately add many additional employees in the future.
A renowned scientist, Dr. Newell has over 30 issued or pending patents and has authored or co-authored several dozen peer-reviewed papers predominantly focused on immunology and cellular metabolism. She is currently developing a mechanism that she hopes will interfere with cancer cells' ability to process energy. Her approach, if successful, could be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation to destroy drug resistant tumors.
The same technology seems to be applicable to the development of bio-fuels. The $750,000 grant provides $150,000 a year for five years. Newell has patented a means of increasing fat stores in certain plants. Under stress, the plants release the fat that Dr. Newell believes can be harvested and refined as a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels.
Dr. Newell is responsible for administering the grant and further exploring this technology's potential for commercial use.
The TLCC's Executive Director Russ Peterman said, "We are so excited to have Dr. Newell and her company joining us at the TLCC. With the recent expansion of Molecular Templates (MTI) and now the recruitment of Viral Genetics, our unique business model of recruiting post-incubation stage companies and providing extensive wet lab and clean room resources, is beginning to really return the investment that the City of Georgetown has made in our center."
The TLCC is in the process of adding five new wet labs, a second tissue culture lab, and a Class 1000 clean room and nanotechnology optical laboratory.
The City of Georgetown is a partner in Opportunity Austin, a regional initiative to foster sustainable growth through the recruitment and creation of new jobs and increased payroll in the Central Texas region.
"Mark Thomas' Economic Development Department for the City of Georgetown played a crucial role in coordinating agreement amongst the many parties crucial to this recruitment effort," said Mel Pendland, the Georgetown Chamber President. "The Chamber and the City work together seamlessly in facilitating these kinds of recruitment efforts."