About Us

About Us

Robert F. Garry, Ph.D., Co-Founder

Luis M. Branco, Ph.D., Co-Founder

He is a Professor of Microbiology & Immunology and Director of the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences at Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Garry received his B.S in Life Sciences with a minor in Chemistry from Indiana State University in 1978. He then carried out doctoral studies in Microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin under the direction of Dr. Marilynn R.F. Waite and received his Ph.D. in 1978. He carried out postdoctoral research in virology at UT Austin under the mentorship of Dr. Henry R. Bose, Jr. In 1983 Dr. Garry was appointed Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1985 he was Visiting Professor of Pathology at the University of Southern California working with Dr. Suraiya Rasheed. Dr. Garry spent 1991 as a Visiting Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Hamburg working with Dr. Gebhard Koch.
Dr. Garry performed work on monovalent cation perturbation by viruses as a graduate student. After coming to Tulane joined collaborative team lead by William Gallaher that first identified similarities between retrovirus and myxovirus glycoproteins. Three classes of viral fusion proteins [VFP] have since been described (I-III). Myxoviruses, retroviruses, paramxyoviruses, arenaviruses and filoviruses encode Class I VFP. Peptides that mimic certain VPF domains are important tools for studying viral entry. Peptides have been used clinically to treat AIDS (Fuzeon) and in our work with Autoimmune Technologies show promise in human clinical trials against influenza. Dr. Garry was also part of a collaborative team headed by Steve Alexander that developed first generation HIV immunoassays (western blots) that were used to identify an early AIDS case retrospectively.

Ph.D., Co-Founder, Zalgen Labs; Dr. Branco has extensive expertise in multiple facets of research and development of chimeric, humanized, human, and affinity maturation of recombinant antibodies for human use. During 19 years in industry he was directly involved in the development of licensed antibody therapeutics, such as MedImmune’s Synagis (Palivizumab), Human Genome Sciences’ Benlysta (Belimumab) and ABthrax (raxibacumab), as well as additional antibodies under clinical evaluation (MEDI’s Numax [motavizumab], HGS’ CCR5mAb004, HGS-ETR1 [Mapatumumab]. His research interests also focused on development of industry leading technologies for acceleration of stable cell line development with high regulatory compliance, aimed at reducing timelines and costs in the development path toward IND filings. Dr. Branco is the inventor of a novel mammalian cell-based biomanufacturing system that is employed in the production of Zalgen’s products.  He is a co-founder of BioFactura, a biotech company in the Washington-D.C. area dedicated to development of therapeutics for Biodefense. Since 2008 Dr. Branco has been actively directing R&D aspects of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium’s Lassa fever program. As co-founder of Zalgen Labs he oversees critical aspects of recombinant protein expression, purification and validation; human monoclonal antibody immunotherapeutics development; logistics and research support in West Africa; procurement of highly relevant human serum samples from acute and convalescent patient sere for diagnostic, therapeutic, and vaccine characterization studies; new vaccine platforms with design elements conducive to vaccination campaigns in austere environments.

Zalgen has core competency in the development of multiple platforms for generation of high quality recombinant proteins from difficult-to-express genes.  Our proven approaches are supported by the successful development of first-to-field-use rapid diagnostic tests for Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF) by a consortium of academic, institutional, and biotechnology entities, led by one of our founders, Dr. Robert F. Garry (http://tulane.edu/som/cancer/robert-garry.cfm).  These diagnostics are revolutionizing the understanding of epidemiological, immunological, and basic research notions in LHF, thus contributing to dramatic improvements in the management and successful outcome of this viral disease.   

Through the use of these proven expression platforms we have developed effective methods for production of Lassa virus-like particles (VLP), which are empty and non-infectious virions containing all the immunologically relevant viral proteins in quasi-native conformation.  Lassa VLP are being tested as possible next generation vaccine platforms for LHF, and have shown efficacy in preliminary in vivo studies.  This VLP technology has broad applications in vaccine and diagnostic platform development for a wide array of enveloped viruses. 

These two programs have potentiated the development of first-in-class immunotherapeutics for prophylaxis and treatment of LHF.  The first three fully human monoclonal antibodies, administered in single or cocktail formats have demonstrated remarkable efficacy in relevant animal models in Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) settings. Zalgen Labs, Tulane University, and the University of Texas Medical Branch were recently awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to support the pre-clinical development of human monoclonal antibody cocktails as a first-in-class prophylactic and post-exposure treatment for LHF. 

Currently, three patent applications are under review by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for technologies relevant to these platforms.
Zalgen Labs employs its patented mammalian cell-based biomanufacturing system, CHOLCelect (U.S. Patent US8076102), in the generation of regulatory compliant clonal stable cell lines in less than half the time of classical platforms. This system utilizes a novel metabolic selection gene that rescues a cholesterol biosynthetic pathway auxotrophy in parental cells (see Technology and Licensing).