AzarGen is a biotechnology company focused on developing human therapeutic proteins using advanced genetic engineering and synthetic biology techniques in plants.
Compared to current mammalian, yeast and bacterial production systems, the use of plant cells to express human recombinant proteins can offer greater advantages with regard to: safety, production speed, clinical efficacy, cost and scalability. AzarGen’s plant-based expression technology comprises optimal combinations of novel synthetic promoters, combined with enhancer, signalling and purification components, enabling increased therapeutic protein expression.
AzarGen is proving the viability of its plant-based expression platform through a lead candidate, being a recombinant human therapeutic protein. AzarGen’s product is expected to increase the survivability of premature-born infants in the developed and developing world with higher clinical efficiency and at lower cost.
The AzarGen management team is supported by an experienced advisory board for strategic guidance and Intellectual Property management. Based in Stellenbosch, South Africa, AzarGen has made great progress to move a portfolio of proprietary biopharmaceutical products forward. On the back of very promising results, AzarGen has recently raised $3,1 million in Series B financing from South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
Mauritz is co-founder and CEO of AzarGen. He conducted genetic research at Stellenbosch University, completing two postdoctoral fellowships (in plant biotechnology and human genetics respectively) and worked as a contract researcher and lecturer. He was part of the first group of postdoctoral fellows in South Africa to receive the National Research Foundation Innovation-Fund postdoctoral bursary in 2005-2006. During his postdoc fellowship in human genetics, he attracted funding and served as project leader of a Self-Initiated MRC (Medical Research Council-SA)-project. He has presented papers at several national and international conferences and authored or co-authored 15 research, book chapter and review articles in biotechnology and medical genetics. After completing a productive internship at Cape Venture Partners (CVP), he decided to combine his passion for science with business to become a bioentrepreneur.
Cobus is co-founder and COO of AzarGen. He has a keen interest in business and has been involved in several ventures from an early age, which contributed to develop him as an entrepreneur. In his own words – "I was always dreaming of pursuing my passion for technology and science by taking my ideas to market and delivering exceptional products that will change the world." Starting out with AzarGen, directly after completion of his Masters studies at Stellenbosch University he set out to pursue that dream and make it a reality. After several years in keeping the business alive during his PhD studies and running an IT and web-design business on the side to pay his bills, the company was successful in obtaining significant seed funding, allowing him to pursue his lifelong passion. Cobus is Chief-Scientist at AzarGen and he currently manages the product development as well as day to day business operations.
Dr. Holtz is now the principal consultant at Holtz Biopharma Consulting, a founding member of the Klyo Collaborative. He has extensive expertise in providing consulting services to the biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing industry including facilities design, process development and quality systems development. Dr. Holtz was the Co-Founder of G-CON Manufacturing, maker of autonomous cleanrooms and Caliber Biotherapeutics, developer and manufacturer of plant-made biotherapeutics. Dr. Holtz was the Senior Vice President of Biopharmaceutical Development for Large Scale Biology Corporation (LSBC) for 15 years and was an integral member of the management team that successfully took the company from a start-up to a publicly-traded company. Dr. Holtz was responsible for the product development, long-term regulatory strategy, and clinical development and manufacturing compliance of the company’s proprietary therapeutics portfolio. Dr. Holtz has held research management positions at Foremost-McKesson and was on the faculty of Ohio State University. He received his Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University and was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Dr. Holtz has been awarded 23 U.S. patents and has published more than 50 scientific papers. He was awarded the Pennsylvania State University, Outstanding Alumni Award in 2003. Dr. Holtz will provide research management services to AzarGen including: regulatory affairs planning and execution, and assistance in CMO management and technology transfer. Dr. Holtz will also serve on the AzarGen scientific advisory board.
David Murray is a director of Cape Venture Partners (CVP), a position he has held for the last 10 years. CVP focuses on assisting technology entrepreneurs achieve commercial success, particularly those facing the challenges of exponential growth. CVP also assists in the commercialisation of early stage ventures, and provides advisory services for entrepreneurs requiring M&A advice. The CVP directors are also entrepreneurs in their own right, and have launched a number of ventures. David is currently Chairman of AzarGen Biotechnologies, which uses a plant based expression platform to produce therapeutic proteins. He also chairs the advisory board of Silulo Ulutho Technologies, which provides technology services to emerging communities. Additionally, David is member of Endeavor's venture corps, which seeks to identify and support high impact entrepreneurs. David is also an adjudicator on the TT100 (Technology Top 100 awards). David has been mentoring Mauritz and Cobus for a number of years, and assisted in the establishment of AzarGen as a commercial venture, along with the necessary fund raising.
Prithviraj is a venture capitalist and Senior Dealmaker at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). As an undergraduate student at the University of Pretoria, the business bug bit and he founded a computer company, which he later sold. He completed his engineering degree and then joined an innovative start-up company as a Microelectronics Engineer, where he was a member of the team that designed and commercialised the world’s first digital passive infrared sensor. To complement his passion for business, finance and technology, Prithviraj completed further engineering degrees at the University of Pretoria and an MBA degree at the University of Cape Town. As a Sainsbury Management Fellow, he went on to conduct research on Mergers & Acquisitions at the University of Cambridge and then completed all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) exams. Prior to joining IDC, Prithviraj worked in financial markets, investment banking and management consulting. In his role at the IDC Venture Capital business unit (now called New Industries), he has been involved in transactions across multiple sectors. He is responsible for looking after part of the venture capital portfolio by providing strategic guidance to the executive teams and helping them to position the companies for growth. Prithviraj has been involved with venture capital companies through the lifecycle, from initial screening through to exit.
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