Hand holding blood test vial marked as HIV negative

With a Chance to Cure HIV,
American Gene Technologies Offers Employees
a Front Seat to History

There is a growing movement of professionals seeking jobs with a purpose. The mission-driven culture of a company is a powerful attraction for those value-driven prospective applicants. Curing HIV is one of the bolder missions to be found in the I-270 technology corridor. With its bold mission to develop a cure for HIV, American Gene Technologies Business Development head Norman Rogers said that it’s an “attractive position for people who want a front seat to history.”

HIV has been a plague to health care as well as a physical and psychological torment for patients for 40 years. The first anti-retroviral approved for the disease was AZT (azidothymidine). The drug’s side effects were so terrible that it inspired art and a slogan from HIV advocates – “I survived AZT.” It wasn’t until 1996 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a combination therapy that could suppress the virus over a longer period, increasing the hope for a potential cure to the disease.

Over the following decades, newer and more effective drugs were developed that have turned HIV from a death sentence to a lifelong chronic condition. Still, though, the code to an HIV cure has yet to be cracked, and patients continue to suffer unsustainable short and long-term side effects of both the disease and the drug regimens. Cures are at the heart of the AGT mission, and their belief in curative medicine has been a magnet for the most talented technicians and scientists. Creative minds are attracted to big missions. Future employees of AGT have the potential to shatter the therapeutic glass ceiling and shoot for cures.  

AGT has treated the first 4 patients with AGT103-T, a genetically modified cell product made from an individual’s own cells and administered to patients with an ex vivo lentiviral vector-based gene therapy. The cells are collected through a process known as leukapheresis, genetically modified outside the body, and then re-administered into the patient. The therapy is developed over an 11-day process to increase the number of HIV-specific T-cells resistant to HIV in order to better fight the virus. In preclinical studies, AGT103-T demonstrated the ability to clear HIV and HIV-infected cells. The research was replicated in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID)

When the Phase 1 study is completed, the company believes it will not only see the desired safety data, but also anticipates seeing some signs of efficacy, which demonstrate a potential functional cure. A functional cure means that patients would no longer show symptoms of the disease and will not be able to transmit the virus to others. 

It’s this kind of hopeful environment nurtured by the promise of cutting-edge science that can enable a sincere mission to end one of the worst public health threats of this century. That is the heart of AGT. Rogers said he hopes that “people who seek to work with AGT are creative, innovative, unafraid, and bold enough to cure people by the millions.”

There are multiple positions open at AGT, including opportunities on the scientific and business teams. Some perspective employees will be enamored with the technology that AGT uses and others will see the potential to impact the approximately 40 million people infected with HIV. Rogers said “we want creative people, willing to overcome difficult problems while in constant danger of failure. People who can mentally endure the weight of large problems. They are welcome to come share in the potential recognition and prestige that may come with success. Nothing we are doing is easy.”

“We want people who are excited about this and have a good sense of what’s possible,” Rogers said. “We want people who have a desire to save 40 million lives and then do more.”

AGT offers employees multiple benefits, including health insurance, generous stock options, retirement plans, and even gym memberships. If the gym doesn’t excite you, they also cater lunch 3x a week. If AGT103-T does prove to provide a functional cure, Rogers said the average employee options package will be life-altering.

“Stock options are the most unappreciated benefit in biotech, the incredible amount of millionaires coming from software were created through options packages, and the valuations in drug development are 10x the average software company,” Rogers said.

Ending HIV isn’t AGT’s only goal. The company is also taking aim at the rare disease Phenylketonuria (PKU), an autosomal recessive disorder, with its proprietary lentiviral vectors. The goal will be to modify the liver in order to restore normal phenylalanine hydroxylase activity and reduce levels of phenylalanine, which can be toxic. Also, AGT has an immuno-oncology program targeting solid tumors.