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OyaGen, Inc.
FoundedRochester, New York 2003
FounderHarold Smith
Area served
Key people
ProductsAntiviral therapeutic lead compounds
Number of employees

OyaGen is a Rochester, New York-based startup company that is focused on developing treatments for HIV. The company was founded in 2003 by Harold Smith, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Rochester.[1][2] OyaGen was founded on research conducted by Smith and Hui Zang, an HIV researcher at Thomas Jefferson University.[1]


OyaGen's research has focused on developing drug-based treatments for HIV and the company has three lead HIV drugs based upon editing enzymes in preclinical development.[3] The company is exploring ways to prevent HIV from disabling the production of APOBEC3G (A3G), a naturally occurring editing enzyme that stops HIV from replicating.[1] A3G combats HIV infection by interacting with and mutating the virus' RNA.[3][4] The mutations genetically damage the virus protein and render HIV unable to replicate which halts the spread of the virus.[3][4] In laboratory testing, OyaGen was able to use drug therapy to shield A3G from HIV, which allowed A3G to function normally and halt the spread of the virus.[5]

The company is also researching drugs that protect A3G from viral infectivity factor (ViF).[4][6] ViF is a protein created by HIV that "tricks" the body into destroying A3G by binding to it.[4][6] Interfering with ViF's ability to bind to A3G can effectively block HIV replication.[7] OyaGen is researching several compounds that prevent ViF from disabling A3G, including A3G agonists, ViF destabilizers and ViF dimerization antagonists.[7][8]


The company received seed funding from Trillium Group's University Technology Fund and the University of Rochester Medical Center.[1][5] It has also received funding from the New York State Retirement Common Fund's Private Equity Program.[9][10] The New York State Retirement Common Fund has invested approximately $1.4 million in the company since 2006.[10] OyaGen's research has also been underwritten in part by the National Institutes of Health, which awarded grants to the company in 2011,[11] 2012,[12] and 2013.[13]

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  1. ^ a b c d Michael Wentzel (12 January 2004). "UR Invests in Anti-HIV Startup". Rochester Chronicle.
  2. ^ Thomas Adams (16 September 2013). "Henrietta firm OyaGen receives $150,000 investment". Rochester Business Journal. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Gail Dutton (1 October 2013). "HIV Researchers Seek a Potential Cure". Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d James H Miller; Vlad Presnyak; Harold C Smith (27 July 2007). "The dimerization domain of HIV-1 viral infectivity factor Vif is required to block virion incorporation of APOBEC3G". Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 601 Elmwood Ave, Rochester, NY 14642, USA. Retrovirology (published 24 November 2007). 4 (1): 81. doi:10.1186/1742-4690-4-81. PMC 2222665. PMID 18036235.
  5. ^ a b Tom Tobin (2 April 2010). "Will health reform be shot in arm for biotech firms?". Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  6. ^ a b Nishad Majmudar (1 September 2005). "OyaGen blazing path toward anti-AIDS drug". Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  7. ^ a b Mariel Selbovitz; David Miller (5 March 2014). "The Deeper End of the Ocean: Host restrictive factors create research excitement". A&U: America's Aids Magazine. p. 52. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  8. ^ Salter, Jason D.; Morales, Guillermo A.; Smith, Harold C. (11 August 2014). "Structural insights for HIV-1 therapeutic strategies targeting Vif". Trends in Biochemical Sciences. CellPress. 39 (9): 373–380. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2014.07.001. PMC 4511815. PMID 25124760.
  9. ^ "State pension fund invests in Rochester venture". The Daily Record. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  10. ^ a b "DiNapoli Tours OyaGen, Touts State Pension Fund". Rochester Homepage. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  11. ^ "Awards summary for Fiscal Year". Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools. 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Awards summary for Fiscal Year". Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools. 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Awards summary for Fiscal Year". Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools. 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2014.

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