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CaroGen Corporation: A biotechnology leader specializing in developing immunotherapies and vaccines to potentially cure infectious diseases and cancer

CaroGen Corporation

Founded in 2012 by Dr. Valerian Nakaar and Dr. Bijan Almassian, CaroGen’s technology is based on a proprietary virus-like vesicle (VLV) platform dubbed AVIDIO (artificial virus for infectio”Meet Dr. Bijan Almassian, the visionary President & CEO of CaroGen Corporation, spotlighted in our latest issue featuringus diseases and immune-oncology), which was discovered by Professor John (Jack) Rose, a co-founder of the Company at Yale University School of Medicine.  AVIDIO which was licensed from Yale for worldwide use enables the development of novel vaccines and immunotherapies to elicit a broad and robust immune response against lethal diseases including cancer and infectious diseases.

The Company’s lead product candidate, CARG-201, is a VLV-based vaccine for the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which is currently in IND enabling preclinical development stage.  CARG-201 delivers two major antigens of HBV and induces potent immune responses resulting in significant reduction of HBV markers in blood of efficacy animal models.

In addition to its hepatitis B vaccine program, CaroGen is also developing VLV-based immunotherapies for cancer. Their first oncology product is  the clinical lead biological CARG-2020, which is oncolytic and delivers three important transgenes including IL-12, IL-17RA agonist, and a check point inhibitor shRNA for PD-L1. Interestingly, CARG-2020, not only induces in situ vaccination, but simultaneously also induces both the innate and adaptive immune responses resulting in the eradication of large established tumors and the concomitant prevention of recurrence in several models of solid tumors. CARG-2020 has entered the IND enabling studies stage and is targeted initially for the treatment and cure of patients with ovarian, melanoma and breast cancer. 

Needless to state that competition in the biotechnology industry is intense, given the enormous market potential for novel vaccines and immunotherapies to address unmet needs in cancer and infectious diseases globally. The market for these products is estimated to be worth several tens of billions of dollars. CaroGen’s product demonstrates superior efficacy, safety, and advantages over potential future competitors to succeed in this market.

How CaroGen Corporation is Better Among Industry Competitors Worldwide

While many biotechnology companies offer incremental technological advancements, CaroGen enables a bold and revolutionary progress in vaccines and cancer immunotherapy. The ultimate objective is to develop a cure for chronic hepatitis B and cancer patients. 

Although it may seem daunting for a small company, CaroGen is confident that its VLV is a versatile and powerful technology, combined with a highly experienced team of drug developers, will make this goal attainable. 

The team of CaroGen includes experienced biotechnology scientists and medical professionals from five esteemed academic and top-tier research institutions, including Yale University School of Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Brown University Medical School, Wayne State University School of Medicine, and Albany Medical College.

A Sneak Peek of CaroGen’s Journey

Starting a biotechnology company can be challenging due to the need for capital and an experienced team, both of which are often scarce. 

However, the team was fortunate to have Dr. Valerian Nakaar, the Chief Scientific Officer and Dr. Bijan Almassian who had previously worked in a public company. This experience was pivotal, in their transition to a biotech company. 

Despite being short on resources, the team secured $150K loan from Connecticut Innovations (CI), a venture arm of State of Connecticut and later received $500K and $1M in loans and investments, respectively, from the same to fund the operations of the Company. 

The team developed their first product, CARG-201, an immunotherapy for the functional cure of patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV), which helped them secure non-dilutive government grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DoD). 

These efforts brought in over $10M, which has supported the operations and enabled them to improve the AVIDIO platform technology and to expand the product pipeline, including CARG-2020, a pan-cancer immunotherapy for solid tumors. 

While the Company is fortunate to have government funding until late 2025, it is seeking additional funding from government and private investors. 

This success has come at a personal and financial cost to both co-founders of the Company as they took little or no salary for the Company’s early years, resulting in the depletion of their personal savings and retirement funds but have helped to helped to build into a successful Company over all these years.

Work Culture at CaroGen

After more than thirty years in the biotech industry, Dr. Almassian firmly believes that in the event of a company’s failure, there can be no true winners. 

Success in biotech requires talented scientists, a cohesive and experienced team that works together, challenges each other, and shares a common goal: the Company’s success. 

Although CaroGen team members may not receive the highest salaries, they strive to achieve their high objectives through tireless teamwork.

All the endeavors a team undertakes in life should ultimately be connected to pursuing the “summum bonum” or the highest good also the public good. The mission is to develop innovative medicines to alleviate suffering in the world, which is a highly noble and charitable endeavor. 

If you succeed in this pursuit, financial benefits will be a natural result of the Company’s benevolent efforts.

Role of Social Media in Biotech Company

Indeed, in today’s world, social media is a crucial tool to keep the public informed about the Company’s progress and the advancement of its products in the drug development stages. Utilizing social media and presenting data at national and international biotechnology events and meetings enhances the likelihood of obtaining corporate partnerships and securing funding from institutional investors.

Factors Behind Scaling up CaroGen

Setting clear goals with self-driven and ambitious team members can scale any business. 

CaroGen has set ambitious yet achievable goals – finding cures for cancer and infectious diseases patients. For many scientists, being part of a team with such lofty goals is a dream come true. These self-driven scientists prioritize the opportunity to work on high-risk and challenging scientific opportunities over compensation such as salary, bonus, medical insurance, and stock options. 

As a scientist, I have always been drawn to these types of opportunities despite the personal financial difficulties that may arise. We have found creative ways to pursue our company’s goals with limited resources by collaborating with scientists from academia, and this collaborative culture is endorsed by everyone in our Company.

Dr. Bijan Almassian

In the highly competitive industry that CaroGen operates in,  it is crucial to possess a technology that differentiates from the competition.   . 

Nevertheless, to maintain their position as industry leaders, they must consistently enhance their platform and products, and consider adopting new technologies, if necessary, to ensure their data meets the high standards set by top companies in their field. 

The experience has shown that businesses only support companies with innovative platforms/products and experienced teams.

What Does the Future Hold for CaroGen?

The team is optimistic about the company’s future outlook, owing to its potentially game-changing platform technology, robust pipeline, a highly skilled team comprising executives, scientific advisors, board of directors, and exceptional partnerships with top-tier academic institutions.

They have successfully created significant value for the company through the judicious use of their limited resources. Having overcome the challenges associated with the early stages of drug development, they anticipate that local and international venture capitalists will find value in CaroGen’s potential and invest in the Company to accelerate drug commercialization endeavors.