Q&A with Prof. Graham Vesey PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Director at Regeneus

Q. Tell us about your role as Chief Scientific Officer at Regeneus?

A. My role at Regeneus from the beginning has been to invent and develop Regeneus’ intellectual property (IP). With over 30 years’ experience as a scientific researcher spanning fields of regenerative medicine and microbiology, I have always been focused on developing and licencing technologies to solve problems.

When I co-founded Regeneus in 2008, we knew it was important to identify a specific area within regenerative medicine that Regeneus could own, then protect it.

I am proud to say we were one of the first companies to identify that regenerative medicine isn’t only about Mesenchymal Stem Cells, which we now refer to as Medicinal Signaling Cells (MSCs; also known as stem cells), rather it’s about the factors that MSCs secrete. Secretions or Secretome are where the real therapeutic power resides and this is what we have built our company, our technologies, and our IP around.

Over the past decade, I have been involved in building a strong portfolio of over 80 patents to protect Regeneus’ science, and our lead platform technologies Progenza™ and Sygenus, that we have developed from this.

Today, my role largely involves supporting our Head of R&D Dr. Charlotte Morgan, Director of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs Dr. Sinead Blaber and R&D Manager Flyn McKinnirey as they drive the development of Progenza™ and Sygenus, prepare our technologies for commercialisation, and manage our laboratory operations.

Q. What is your scientific background and how did this lead you to Regeneus?

A. I have been a researcher in microbiology for over 30 years and in that time founded three successful biotech companies, including BTF, Regeneus, and Biopoint.

My career began in the UK at the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research at Porton Down where I conducted research into Legionnaires Disease. This led me to setting up and running a large commercial Legionella testing laboratory for Thames Water. I then moved to Australia in 1991 to continue my research at Macquarie University, where I developed sensitive technology for the detection of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in water. This technology was later licenced to Sydney Water.

In 1999 I founded BTF. Over eight years we developed a suite of unique microbiological products and the company became one of Australia’s fastest growing companies, winning the Deloitte FAST 50 award for outstanding revenue growth in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, BTF was acquired by French diagnostic company bioMerieux, and today, the BTF product range continues to be the fastest growing and most profitable products within the bioMerieux catalogue.

The acquisition of BTF in 2008 led me to co-found Regeneus with colleagues Ben Herbert and Mark Wilkins. We were focused on using cells from fat to treat inflammatory diseases and conditions that had – and have to this day – unmet needs to be addressed. I previously held the position of CEO of Regeneus until 2014 when I was appointed Chief Scientific Officer, and have remained a member of the Regeneus Board since the company began.

Today, alongside my work with Regeneus, I am also the co-founder of Biopoint which is developing new products for the microbiology industry.

Q. Tell us about Regeneus’ lead platform technologies Progenza™ and Sygenus.

A. Our platform technologies have immense potential to treat a range of diseases and conditions, and we are working tirelessly to develop these to provide more effective treatment options for patients globally.

Progenza™ and Sygenus are fully patented MSC-Secretome combination and Secretome-only technologies respectively.

Our lead platform technology Progenza™ contains both MSCs and their bioactive secretome for an ideal therapeutic effect that treats symptoms of pain and inflammation and also promotes tissue repair. Our second technology platform, Sygenus, utilises the bioactive secretome of MSCs only, and works as a topical treatment for pain and inflammation, as well as skin conditions, wounds, and acne.

Our current focus is on developing Progenza™ to treat knee osteoarthritis (OA). Progenza™  addresses the current gap in the knee OA market for a treatment that is more effective than Paracetamol or opioids and less invasive than joint replacement or surgery. This kind of technology is not currently available on the market, and with the strong IP protection we have built around our science, coupled with our licence and commercialisation agreement with Japanese manufacturer Kyocera Corporation, Progenza™ has the opportunity to be the first treatment of its kind for knee OA.

Q. What is unique about Progenza™ and Sygenus?

A. What’s specifically unique about our platform technologies Progenza™ and Sygenus is the science behind them, both for their therapeutic effect, but also their lifespan advantage.

Utilising MSCs and importantly, their secretions has shown to be beneficial in maintaining efficacy of the cells post-thaw from a frozen state, while MSC-only-based products have been seen to lose efficacy after freezing. Being able to freeze products without losing their therapeutic effect is essential to making treatments marketable and applicable in clinical settings, as not freezing results in a shorter lifespan for the product and logistical difficulties when it comes to distribution to end-users.

Progenza™ and Sygenus do not face the same problems, and we have protected this science with patents across our key markets, so our competitors do not have the same advantage.

Q. What do you believe is next for regenerative medicine and what role do you think Regeneus can play in advancing the sector?

A. I have been proud of the progress that Regeneus has made in developing unique technologies to treat some of the world’s most prevalent diseases in pain and inflammation, including OA, neuropathic pain, and skin wounds. Patients with these conditions are currently seeing their treatment needs left unmet, and with the work we are doing at Regeneus we hope to change that.

Of course, Regeneus’ focus has shifted over time as both the company developed and the market developed, but our understanding of the power of MSC Secretome and the importance of developing products that utilise this remains unchanged. Even the founder of MSCs, Arnold Caplan agrees, as in a recent paper he speaks about the relative higher importance of secretions compared to stem cells themselves.

I look forward to seeing Regeneus develop Progenza™ and Sygenus for a vast number of indications that provide effective, never-before-seen treatments to patients to make a positive impact on their quality of life.