We talked to Vishwas D. Joshi on how Seagull BioSolutions is developing innovative biological technologies to produce new, affordable healthcare products and this is what he had to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vishwas D. Joshi: Thank you. We are doing well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Seagull BioSolutions?
Vishwas D. Joshi: I am a molecular virologist by training and was working in anti-inflammatory drug discovery in various Indian pharma companies. During this period, I realized that modern medicines require very specialized technical skills and technology platforms. Their development will be essential for pharma companies to compete & maintain their leadership in the pharma world. Therefore, Seagull BioSolutions was founded to either develop or adapt new biological technologies and exploit them to produce innovative healthcare products that can be easily affordable to the common man in India & the rest of the world.
How does Seagull BioSolutions innovate?
Vishwas D. Joshi: We have developed a very versatile technology platform called Active Virosome Technology (AVT) that uses the Measles Virus as a vector to express different membrane-associated proteins in the form of highly customized measles viruses. That can be used as antigens for non-replicating nanoparticles, which can be used as scaffolds for displaying different protein antigens and delivering RNA molecules into different cell types. They are straightforward to produce using a simple bioprocess. This technology essentially helps convert MV into a molecular capsule that can package any desired 2 to 16 kb long RNA molecule and display a wide range of membrane proteins on their surface. We use this technology to produce different vaccines.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Vishwas D. Joshi: Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the company. Before the pandemic, we had just started selling R&D services exploiting our AVT platform to different industry clients. Early adopters had liked the technology & we were looking forward to evolving a profitable business from this offering. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus outbreak stopped this completely. On the positive side, the pandemic also offered an opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of our AVT platform and possibly develop the first “Entirely endogenously developed” agent that will be useful to fight this pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Vishwas D. Joshi: I think these were a part of the process faced by all Startup founders, and it may be unfair to call them “Difficult choices.” Once a person commits to starting a company, all these are implied into that first commitment. An important lesson learned was a very happy realization that younger generation Indians enjoy working in an innovation-driven company. Retaining them is less of a problem than that faced by larger pharma companies.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vishwas D. Joshi: Over 150 other organizations are currently developing the Corona vaccine – they are well known. We will use partnerships with larger companies for the development & marketing of this vaccine. At least 3 -4 different organizations use the Measles virus as a vector for developing different products. Our technology has its differentiators, and so we are confident of being able to overcome the competition.
Your final thoughts?
Vishwas D. Joshi: It has been an exciting and highly educative journey so far. It has been very nicely supported by the rapidly evolving & progressive policies of the Govt of India. I have been very fortunate to live during this period when India is going through a revolutionizing transformation.