Mission, Purpose, and Reducing Human Suffering Propel American Gene Technologies Forward
In early November 2021, the company announced that the third patient in its first-in-human study for AGT103-T, a cell therapy for HIV, had been dosed with no serious adverse events. This latest milestone achievement moves the company and its team another step closer to curing HIV and making history.
Moving any therapy out of the clinic and to commercialization is a long and winding journey. This is particularly so for cell and gene therapies. There are only a handful of cell and gene products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and while the approved products might differ, the companies that have won FDA approval have common traits: great science, strong leadership, and a patient-centric, mission-driven team that’s pulling in the same direction.
Under the leadership of CEO Jeff Galvin, AGT has built a culture that is unique yet retains these core strengths prevalent at the handful of organizations that have brought a cell or gene therapy to market. The AGT team is defined by a purpose-driven esprit de coeur where mission, perseverance, great science, and dedication have converged to produce outstanding results and a workplace that fosters personal fulfillment and professional development.
The recent positive AGT 103-T results are a direct reflection of AGT’s culture. Talk to anyone on Galvin’s team and they’ll tell you AGT is a special place to work, innovate, and grow both personally and professionally.
Nidal Muvarak, Principal Scientist, came to AGT from academia where the perception existed that the biotech industry puts profit over mission, in many cases, which led Muvarak to have some reservations about joining the biotech industry prior to his AGT interview.
“As soon as I interviewed with the folks here, I knew that the profit over mission perception didn’t apply to AGT. I immediately had the sense that for AGT the science, curing disease, and ending suffering mattered more than money,” stated Muvarek, reflecting an industry-wide trend where a clear sense of purpose and mission have become influential factors for talent choosing one employer over another.
More than four years later, Muvarek has some time under his belt to reflect on how AGT’s culture and mission make the company a great place to work, learn, and grow a career.
“Being at a small company you feel that you’re with family,” he added. “My coworkers are my friends. The best part of being here in addition to the scientific work is just chatting with my coworkers about anything. That makes me happy.”
“Last year I was walking down the hallway and I ran into our Chief Science Officer. He told me that our HIV product AGT 103-T’s Investigational New Drug (IND) submission had been accepted. A lot of hard work and sweat went into that; there were periods during the submission process where I worked long hours. I remember I just wanted to give him a hug—that was the first IND acceptance I’d been a part of in my career. You don’t typically run into your CSO in the hallway at a big company. That’s part of what makes AGT different and enjoyable.”
In a recent BioBuzz 5 Questions interview, Galvin shared some insights into the remarkable, diverse, and vibrant culture that AGT has fostered since its founding in 2007.
“AGT is a unique place. Every person who works at the company, from the admin staff to the PhDs in the lab, work towards a goal we are passionate about: ending as much human suffering as possible. That energy is palpable in the halls,” shared Galvin.
“We value brains, work ethic, passion, creativity, and teamwork. That value system has brought us tremendous diversity in the team and has created a multi-ethnic workforce that is over 60% women, with nine native spoken languages. The team members at AGT have gravitated to the company through their desire and belief that we can cure diseases with unique technology and collaboration. They are all dedicated, passionate people with creative minds, and we greatly value each other’s contributions,” he added.
While AGT’s potential cure for HIV has been in the spotlight recently, the company is also advancing a robust and diverse product pipeline. AGT’s mission is clear—end as much human suffering as possible—yet the possible pathways to achieve the goal are manifold. The company’s gene platform has strong potential to create new, effective, and safe therapies for infectious diseases, monogenic disorders, and cancer.
However, moving these promising drugs from the clinic to the market will require attracting and retaining the right talent that aligns with AGT’s mission and perpetuates its already strong culture.
AGT’s promising science and strong workplace culture is a magnetic pull for talented life sciences professionals at all career stages.
“AGT is doing big things and I wanted to take my career here to help. I’ve had jobs in the past where the collective passion wasn’t there, but this company is in the process of creating something new and it’s as close to the ‘creation’ aspect as you can get,” shared Luke Williams, Marketing & Sales Generalist at AGT, when asked why he decided to join the company.
Williams also recounted some of his favorite experiences at AGT. He stated AGT is famous for its parties, and when the company received positive safety results for the AGT 103-T trial, AGT certainly lived up to this reputation.
“Jeff gave an awesome speech and we had people that came from all over the world. Not only was the night wonderful, but it also was meaningful because everyone was there for the mission. This party showed how much fun we can have but it was still tied to our purpose and mission,” stated Williams.
“I was originally apprehensive about joining a smaller company like AGT. Now I am an advocate for it because of my great experience here,” he added. “I feel like a part of a family, not an employee.”
“We’re in cell and gene therapy, which is a very hot field, and that’s our bread and butter. We have a great team of scientists and leaders. My kids call Jeff ‘Big Boss.’ I love what I do and I love the people I work with and for,” Muvarek added.
“AGT’s hiring philosophy is that we want to hire smart, creative individuals that have the drive to succeed. We like to say, ‘When you hire the best you hire from all around the world.’ We’re in Rockville, Maryland, and close to Washington DC with its international community; we’re also in an area with a high concentration of PhDs. Though these scientists are from different backgrounds, everyone is united in the mission and passion to find the next great thing to update the human body,” stated Williams. “That’s what working at AGT is like and why it’s great.”
Heading into 2022, the entire AGT team is very excited about moving its HIV product through the next segments of the Phase 1 trial and getting a look at its efficacy data at some point in the new year.
United by mission, purpose, and great science, the AGT team is inching closer to an HIV cure and making medical history.
“If we could demonstrate our HIV product is effective and safe, it will take us a step closer to ending the suffering of HIV patients across the world,” added Williams. “It’s just an amazing feeling to be part of something larger than myself and that could improve so many people’s lives.”
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