Oregon’s Booming Biotech Sector: Companies to Watch

Image of Mt Hood for article on Oregon's biotech sector.

Oregon is bordered by Washington State, Idaho, Nevada, California, and the Pacific Ocean.  It is known as the perfect state to enjoy the great outdoors.  From the famous Mt Hood to Crater Lake, the deepest in the U.S., Oregon is also a rising hub for biotech.

According to the Oregon Bioscience Association, the state’s biotech community boasts a total economic output of $10.7 billion, while its employee base stretches over 47,000. Evidently, Portland’s life sciences sector leads the state in job growth, further bolstering its burgeoning tech ecosystem.

UbiVac – Portland, OR, is a clinical stage immunotherapy & cancer target discovery company, with first-in-human combination immunotherapies that include the newly discovered non-mutated shared cancer neoantigens 

UbiVac has unique and disruptive immune educating and activating vaccine technology. UbiVac’s lead agent, DPV-001, contains the newly discovered non-mutated shared cancer neoantigens and more than 300 antigens for the majority of patients with adenocarcinoma or squamous cell cancers. Due to its unique platform vaccine technology, novel targets are being discovered that might be used for ADC, CAR-T/NK, and TCR gene therapy. UbiVac postulates that by applying machine learning, artificial intelligence, and generative adversarial networks to the analysis of the extensive monitoring data from these ongoing first-in-human trials, new insights will allow future trials to tailor treatment regimens and further improve outcomes of patients with cancer.

AgonOx -Portland, OR, is in the process of identifying new immunotherapy targets by understanding the complexity of human tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) isolated from several different tumor types. Through our close alignment with the Earl A Chiles Research Institute at the Providence Cancer Center we have evaluated over a hundred tumor specimens obtained from surgery. We process these samples as soon as they are obtained from the operating room in order to keep the immune phenotypes intact, which avoids changes that can occur during freezing or resting. Differences in RNA array data have identified genes that are upregulated in either the activating and suppressive immune populations within the tumor microenvironment. From this information we design and develop recombinant proteins, antibodies, or small molecules that block and/or activate novel immune-specific pathways and generate tumor-specific TIL to target tumors.

Veana Therapeutics – Portland, OR has developed VIMO technology which is based on orally bioavailable anti-cancer agents that selectively attack and destroy the energy powerhouses (mitochondria) of cancer cells in a fashion that subsequently stimulates the immune system. 

Veana’s VIMO platform of α-TEA salt form-based products can be combined with other forms of immunotherapy to further improve anti-tumor activity.

Enosi Therapeutics – Eugene, OR, has developed an AI-driven (in silico) method capable of optimizing affinity of ligands to their binding site(s) to receptor:Fc fusion proteins capable of making their ligand-trapping comparable to the cell membrane-associated receptors, and therefore better ligand traps than those existing today. Enosi’s TRAP technology can be applied to soluble or cell-associated targets (or both) in a monospecific or multispecific format. TRAPS avoid the common toxicity associated with receptor-targeted antibody therapeutics which occurs when the receptor is not overexpressed on the target tissue. This occurs via ADCC or because of inappropriate shut-down of receptor function in normal tissues. This hurdle has been particularly encountered for all anti-EGFR antibodies and limits their utility.

Single-Armed Antibodies: Enosi is developing single-armed antibodies in cases where bivalent antibody-mediated receptor clustering is not wanted because of potential activation. Whereas transient activation of receptor function is commonplace with antagonist antibodies, like trastuzumab/Herceptin, in the case of TNFR1 this may be disastrous if the cytokine cascade/storm is activated. Thus, a TNFR1 molecule must be designed that does not trigger clustering and is not a significant agaonist.

SIGA – Corvalles, OR, is s a public, commercial-stage pharmaceutical company focused on providing solutions for unmet needs in the health security market that comprises medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats, as well as emerging infectious diseases. The company is headquartered in New York City, with research and development facilities in Corvallis, Oregon.

Their product, TPOXX® (tecovirimat) that is available in oral and intravenous formulations, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of smallpox. The European Medicine Agency (EMA) has approved oral TPOXX (under the name Tecovirimat SIGA) for the treatment of smallpox, monkeypox, cowpox, and vaccinia complications following vaccination against smallpox.