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November 25, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Kevin Anderson inspired by 2006 poster session during graduate school

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a series spotlighting the start-ups that participated in the recent “AgLaunch Bootcamp” hosted by the AgLaunch organization and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.)

Kevin Anderson says the triggering event for what has become a multi-year journey to develop a novel approach to gene therapy started in 2006 with a poster session describing one of his research projects in graduate school.

“A local company expressed interest in what I was doing and hired me as a consultant,” he told us in a recent interview. Thirteen years later and with Anderson now based in Huntsville, AL where he is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Oakwood University, he has his own company that is actually selling lectins online.

The company is Foresight Chemistry, and Anderson describes the products that the start-up is making as part of a “delivery platform” for gene therapy.

The soft-spoken college professor and entrepreneur says he likes to swim and workout in the gym. For sure, he’s clearly pumped-up about the bright future he sees for the start-up.

“This is an exciting time for gene therapy,” he says, adding, “I want to be part of the revolution. It’s the beginning of a new age for medicine.”

So, what exactly does Foresight Chemistry do?

“We prepare specialty sugars (glycans) and proteins (lectins) that make gene and cell therapy more efficient and better,” Anderson says.

Being a non-healthcare professional, we asked him to provide some additional explanation.

“Your physician would prescribe the gene therapy that you need,” he says. The goal is to repress the expression of a bad gene or gene product or to stimulate the expression of a good gene or gene product. To do this, the therapeutic must have a way to access the cells of interest where the genes are located.

“You need a specific key to access a specific cell.”  “My work is preparing the sugars and proteins that are attached to the DNA or siRNA (Small Interfering Ribonucleic Acid). They help the gene therapy access its target.”

Anderson has published a number of articles and made presentations on his work. He says he bootstrapped the start-up including its small lab and hopes to significantly increase his productivity and output soon.

“Natural products chemistry is difficult on a large scale,” he says. “It will take time, skill and money” to get to where he wants the company to be.

A mentor and founder of a biotech company in California told Anderson about “AgLaunch Bootcamp,” and he spent a week in Knoxville this summer. “It was very informative and well-run,” he said of the experience giving kudos to Pete Nelson and Schuyler Dalton of Memphis-based AgLaunch and Jim Biggs of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

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