Innovation/Application: Kailos Genetics

Kailos Genetics, founded in April 2010, is one of the newest companies to call HudsonAlpha home. Its founders, however, are not strangers to the institute.  In this edition of “Innovation/Application” we asked Chief Strategy Officer Mike Walters to explain how the company is positioned to make a difference in human health.

Q: Please introduce us to your leadership team.
Our leadership team includes President/CEO Brian Pollock, who has 20 years of experience in start-up and biotechnology companies. Chief Scientific Officer Troy Moore comes to the table with nearly 20 years of biotech experience and Chief Technical Officer Randy Bachmeyer boasts 25 years of technical and leadership experience in the software industry.  

Pollock and Moore have a rich history in Huntsville’s biotech industries, including employment with Research Genetics. The pair also co-founded Open Biosystems which was acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2008. Bachmeyer began his career developing engineering applications for Intergraph, serving as director of new technology applications and vice president of the utilities division. 

I co-founded SourceCF which was acquired by Eurand Pharmaceuticals. Following the acquisition, I joined Eurand as executive vice president and was charged with building its U.S. operations. Previous experience includes founding two organizations focused on building the commercial infrastructure for emerging biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and more than 10 years with Johnson & Johnson.

Other key people are laboratory director Sandra Gunselman, Ph.D., founder and board member K-T Varley, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at HudsonAlpha, and founder Rick Myers, Ph.D., president and director of HudsonAlpha.

Q: Kailos Genetics is on the cutting edge with its testing platform. Will you explain?

Over half of the population has variants in their basic building blocks – the A’s, C’s, T’s and G’s that form our genetic make-up. Importantly, many of these variants are associated with negative effects to specific drugs, including those used to treat depression, heart disease, pain, etc.  

Kailos Genetics has developed a testing platform that identifies known and validated variants to specific drugs, and supports physicians in identifying variants associated with adverse effects or diminished efficacy before deciding on a prescription.  This enables physicians to adjust a dose or seek an alternate therapy, as they deem necessary.

Q: How will that improve human health?
While the association between variants and drugs is not new, time to get "actionable information" has limited the usefulness of testing to date, with many tests requiring four to six weeks.  Today, Kailos Genetics can deliver actionable information within just one week for an initial query, and real time for additional queries.  By addressing this dilemma, we believe Kailos Genetics "can bring genetics into the clinic" and, in our lifetime, make molecular-based genetic testing as routine as checking weight, blood pressure and temperature.  

Q:  What is it about HudsonAlpha that is so attractive to your team from an entrepreneurial and scientific perspective?

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology brings several domains – science, cutting-edge technology and commercial operations – together. Kailos Genetics, as a company, is a great example.  The platform, as a research and development tool, is the result of Varley’s research.  This was the focus of her doctoral work and a technology she brought to the institute. Now we have begun the process of technology transfer and transforming a research and development tool into a commerial platform.  In parallel, the commercial team has developed business strategies and begun to reach out to potential partners within each of the key sales channels.  We have one goal in mind – to put genetics into the clinic.    

Q: What do you see in Huntsville’s future regarding biotech becoming a significant part of the Rocket City’s economy?

Huntsville has a rich history of pioneering new frontiers and being on the leading edge of research, discovery and innovation. And many of the same individuals who played a significant role in Huntsville’s past economic development and growth have supported our initial entry and success into biotech through the institute and many of its resident associate companies.