Tor 23 maj / År 42 / Nr 1 2024

Making outstanding viral research known to the world

Professor Mohammed Homman, founder of biotechnology company Vironova, had a very keen interest in viral diseases early in his career. With a strong motivation and a will to succeed he started to investigate the lifecycles of viral diseases, a new path in modern research that eventually resulted in several new pharmaceutical projects developed and sold by Mohammed Homman’s company Vironova.

After studying both chemistry and biology Professor Homman started to focus on stem cells while working on his academic thesis in Holland. At the time there was no specific research group targeting stem cells in Sweden, so Mohammed Homman started to study patients at Novum in Huddinge. He soon witnessed something that would form a new path in his career. During bone marrow stem cell transplantation many patients died of a herpes virus, its origin still a mystery at the time.

The founding of Vironova
Mohammed soon began to seriously take an interest in viral diseases and in how viruses work. Just like any living organism, but not having their own life per definition. “Viruses are super intelligent and can reproduce themselves. I was involved in a project developing image technology as I was struck by the idea that later formed the company Vironova. I interacted with mathematicians, image analysts and researchers. Together we developed a new technique for image analysis, and at the same time I wanted to know how viral infections work, particularly the herpes virus that took the lives of many patients in connection with bone marrow transplantation”.
It was from this context that Mohammed Homman and Vironova entered pharmaceutical development. “When you understand the process, the lifecycle of viral infections, you can also develop drugs that attack the process and thereby inhibit the virus”.

Two extensive project portfolios
Today, Vironova has two extensive project portfolios. One which is focused on developing new pharmaceuticals against viral diseases and another that is purely product-oriented, focusing on image analysis techniques.
“I founded Vironova in 2005 and the time has gone by very quickly”, says Mohammed Homman. “It has been a very informative journey and we have above all learnt the importance of entrepreneurship along the way. I did not have this perspective when I first started out. Now we have two business models, one for drug development and for product development. At the same time I want to emphasize that I am still a pure scientist who wants to expand my knowledge in virus development”.

Focusing on expansion
Vironova has 23 employees and several subsidiaries. “We find ourselves between academia and industry. We develop pharmaceutical projects that are sold on to the pharmaceutical industry. To develop a commercially viable drug takes up to fifteen years and we are too small for that kind of challenge. What we do is to develop the first stage, and after that we look for suitable partners for licensing or take over”.
Currently, Vironova has a few different pharmaceutical projects ready for take over. “We are still a small company, but at the same time we are also the only fully equipped laboratory in the Nordic countries that can test new drugs against viruses. We are now focusing very hard on expanding Vironova, making our research known to the world”, Mohammed Homman concludes.