Dr. Arun Shastry is a Co-Founder of Hanugen Therapeutics Private Limited. Hanugen Therapeutics is developing oligonucleotide-based therapeutics to treat rare genetic disorders. The oligonucleotides are used to alter the RNA transcription process and treat diseases.
Dr. Arun describes, “Hanugen is a startup based out in Bangalore. We are focused on finding out affordable and accessible treatment options for different rare genetic disorders who have problems in their DNA. The technology which we use for treating rare diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Spinal muscular dystrophy, and others is Antisense oligonucleotide-based therapy wherein we design a drug that could be personalized medicine to treat a particular disease. We have currently developed three different drugs for three different exons 45, 51, and 53, and have got the clinical trial approval. We have the manufacturing license for clinical trials which will begin at the end of this year.”
USP of Hanugen Therapeutics
Dr. Arun mentions, “The USP of Hanugen Therapeutics is that we want to use the power of science to alter the DNA in a good way by helping out people with rare diseases. India has a high number of rare diseases. In India, we have 3-5 lacs children affected with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and around 2 lacs with Spinal muscular dystrophy. We want to disrupt the myth that rare diseases can be treated at an affordable rate.”
Dr. Arun emphasizes, “We are also using the same technology as the US is using. We have made it very affordable. The USFDA-approved drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy comes for 3,00,000 – 5,00,000 dollars/year/child which is approximately 2-5 crores. And we have come up with drugs that cost 25 lacs/year/patient. But it is still expensive, everybody can’t afford it. We want to bring the cost down to 5lacs/year/patient. In our upcoming clinical trials, we will be treating more than 50 patients.”
Funds and their utilization
Dr. Arun narrates, “We got a lot of support from the Karnataka Government and C-CAMP. We are the first batch to receive the Karnataka government’s Idea2POC ELEVATE grant and received funds of 50 lacs which were utilized for the in-vitro and in-vivo study of these molecules. The startup also received Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) and received 50 lakhs, SEED Fund, from C-CAMP-BIRAC which was again used for preclinical studies. We have the license to manufacture clinical-grade material that will be used for in-house trials.”
“We got slowed down due to a lack of funds and COVID. Now everything is back on track, so by the end of December, we should be able to initiate trials. Once the trial starts, it will be a two-year study and post this we will get into the market. Currently, there are some challenges, we need some more funding for intermediate scale-up, completing the drug manufacturing process, and also taking care of expenses of the trials. Once these steps are completed, we should be able to give the therapy to the needy,” narrates Dr. Arun.
Revenues of Hanugen Therapeutics
Dr. Arun says, “We have generated revenues of around 2 crores in FY22 and are targeting 5 crores by the end of FY23. COVID reagents also use oligonucleotides as the starting material, so we cater to lots of companies who manufacture COVID Diagnostic kits.”
“We are committed to the rare disease community. We have an upcoming clinical trial for DMD. We have also got approval to conduct a trial on Spinal Muscular Dystrophy. We are getting lots of interest from other rare disease communities, looking for potential collaboration with different universities.
Hanugen Therapeutics is the face of the organization but the heart lies in Dystrophy Annihilation Research Trust (DART), established in 2012 by Ravdeep Singh Anand, a co-founder of Hanugen,” mentions Dr. Arun.
Future goals and expansion
Talking about future strategies, Dr. Arun speaks, “We have completed the stage of applying for grants. We are looking for Angel investors and Venture Capitalists who should be like-minded with our goal and be patient enough for us to come out with some solutions. There is a lot of return on investment. Our main aim is to work through the government system so that the government disseminates this to the needy.
We need your support to scale up these things. This oligonucleotide-based technology could be harnessed for common diseases like cancer, diabetes, and others with personalized medicine.”
Learnings for an aspiring entrepreneur
Dr. Arun concluded, “The mantra is we need to keep moving on. An entrepreneur needs to face problems on a daily basis. A strong team who works day and night and your passion to do something will motivate and help you a lot. Be strong and positive, things will happen.”
(Edited by Renu Gupta)