Gene therapy has consistently attempted to improve its method of curing diseases over the past three decades by developing a number of mechanisms. These strategies have the potential to save lives. Experts in the field have conducted extensive research to enable doctors to treat a disorder by replacing genes. Javier Garcia, CEO, and Co-Founder of Viralgen Vector Core has incorporated new medical treatment technologies that enhance people’s lives and health.
Javier Garcia has been at the forefront of the global biotechnology sector in recent years, leading the strategy and execution of numerous projects. As a manufacturer of AAVs for gene therapy, he has established himself as a global authority. Because of this, Bayer decided to buy it for $4 billion in 2020 as part of the AskBio deal.
In addition, he is a co-founder of Columbus Venture Partners, a venture capital firm whose mission is to propel the most disruptive early science into commercialization. He has just launched a third fund with 120 million euros following the success of Viralgen and other projects in the first two funds.
His work places a significant emphasis on social responsibility. Columbus Children’s Foundation, which began in Spain in 2017 and expanded to the United States in 2018, is co-founded by him. The Foundation’s primary objective is to accelerate treatment for children with extremely rare conditions.
Javier Garcia was interviewed by Corporate Leaders Magazine to learn more about his journey and how Viralgen is meeting the unmet demand for gene therapies.
The interview’s highlights are as follows:
Describe your journey as a business leader up until your current position at Viralgen for our audience. Which obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are now?
The healthcare industry’s transformation and creation of value have always been my primary professional motivation. It has always been a constant to think up and create new projects that have a real impact on people’s lives and well-being. In 1986, I started my first business venture.
In the end, I spent 25 years working for Eli Lilly. My professional path began in information technology, and then I moved into business development. In the R&D and commercial areas, I am in charge of IT’s digital transformation. In my capacity as Vice President of Business Development, I was central to innovation licensing and acquisition.
I started working for biotech companies and research centers as an independent consultant in 2012. I met Damià Tormo, my partner, in those years, and in 2015, we decided to form Columbus Venture Partners. We currently manage more than $250 million across three funds.
Ensuring that I could truly have the freedom to create a vision and carry it out outside of a pharmaceutical company was the primary obstacle I had to overcome. Pharma companies are great places to work and learn, but it’s not easy to leave an executive position there and find a meaningful job where you can make a difference. To learn and adapt to the world without the protection of a large corporation requires discipline and a strong commitment.
Give us more information about your business, including its purpose and vision.
In response to one of the most pressing requirements of the gene therapy market, Viralgen was created.Viralgen assisted in addressing a manufacturing bottleneck by adding additional production capacity, cutting-edge technology, and a world-class workforce.
Viralgen’s objective is to make AAV gene therapy options available to people with genetic diseases. Its goal is to help customers get the best product at the right time, at the right scale, and at the right price by being with them throughout the entire process, from development to commercial manufacturing.
Please explain how your market knowledge has helped you establish yourself as an authority in the BioTech sector.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is to accurately interpret what is taking place in the market, comprehend where it is headed, and anticipate events by accepting the risks that this implies. Institutions have great science, but they don’t know how to make it available to the public. The key to success is ensuring that people have access to this knowledge and those with experience.
In a nutshell, I believe my role is to bring together intellectual and traditional capital to produce genuine innovation. Today, there is a need to combine capital and knowledge in new ways. This new model can be utilized more effectively by smaller businesses than by larger ones, resulting in even greater outcomes.
Give a detailed description of your company’s core values and work environment.
We were able to attract highly qualified employees, suppliers, and customers precisely because of Viralgen’s corporate culture. Four fundamental principles guide our culture: trust, empathy, expertise, and humanity our decisions are based on the needs of our patients. This is why we have the highest standards for quality.
This can be seen in the organization’s human approach and the way we collaborate with the Columbus Children’s Foundation to advance gene therapy programs without any financial gain from our manufacturing contribution.
Employees at Viralgen uphold the promise that we are the stewards of a potent technology that has the potential to change the lives of many people.
This concept was inspired by Dr. Jude Samulski, one of the fathers of gene therapy and founder of Askbio: “The commitment and pride of belonging that drive the corporate culture is synthesized.”Viralgen employees not only come to work, but also to make a difference in the world.
What are your long-term objectives for Viralgen, and where do you see yourself in the future?
I will be creating novel projects that have a direct impact on people’s well-being. This seems to be my calling, my love, and my place in the world. It makes perfect sense to combine for-profit and non-profit organizations, and I believe this is the new model for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.
Additionally, I am of the opinion that we must transform the world by making cures accessible to everyone. It’s almost like incorporating non-profit biotech into our work. We place a high value on our collaboration with the Columbus Children’s Foundation because of this. We are the only ones who understand technology and what it can do for us, so no one else will care about neglected diseases or global access if we don’t act.
If someone is just starting out and wants to go into the BioTech industry, what advice would you give them?
The following are the four areas in which entrepreneurs need to grow: a different point of view on what they want to accomplish, leadership to make sure they know how to work toward the goal and overcome obstacles, courage to get over obstacles and setbacks, and compassion to understand the pain and urgency of patients.
Anyone working in this field needs to be able to network, get feedback, and listen to different points of view. Science is not all there is; It’s necessary, but not enough. Many great projects fail because the leader didn’t act in the right way at the right time, according to my observations.
Last but not least, remember that failure is not a bad thing. I’ve personally experienced this, and I know that we need to change our approach to it. In biotech, there is a lot of project attrition, so failure is expected. However, there will always be a great project waiting, and the lessons learned from failures are very valuable.