The launch of Codiak BioSciences, Inc. was recently announced, securing an $80-plus million Series A and B financing. The collaboration between ARCH Ventures and Flagship Ventures has also completed license and sponsored research agreements with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Exosomes are small vesicles that leave cells and travel along the body, and can mediate dramatic effects in animal models of disease. Codiak’s goal is to become the world’s leading company in developing exosomes as a new therapeutic and diagnostic modality for the treatment of various illnesses, including cancer, by leveraging the latest advances in the biology of extracellular vesicles and their role in intercellular communication.
Raghu Kalluri, MD, PhD, and chair of Cancer Biology at MD Anderson, has developed important technology for Codiak BioSciences. Dr. Kalluri and his team have shown that exosomes originated from normal cells act as a safe and potent delivery system for several therapeutic cargos. Their work also contributed to some discoveries regarding the identification of exosome proteins, exosome microRNAs and their biogenesis, cancer-specific exosomes and exosome-mediated treatments.
“I am excited to be joining Codiak,” said Douglas E. Williams, PhD, who has joined Codiak BioSciences as its founding president and CEO, in a news release. “I look forward to building a world-class team to harness the power of exosomes for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes. We seek to grow Codiak into the leader in this emerging field as we strive to make new, breakthrough medicines that provide significant and lasting patient benefit.”
Steven Gillis, PhD, managing director at ARCH Venture Partners and co-founder of Immunex, recruited Dr. Williams to Immunex over 25 years ago. Dr. Gillis will be Codiak BioSciences’ chairman.
“Codiak is harnessing recent advances in the field of extracellular vesicles and will assemble a world-class team to develop exosomes as a new modality for therapeutics and diagnostics,” stated Dr. Gillis. “We look forward to helping Codiak grow to become a dominant force in the field of exosome biology and to working with the founders, Doug Williams and MD Anderson to ensure that Codiak’s developments provide meaningful advancements in the fight against cancer and other diseases.”
Flagship Ventures has pursued applications of exosomes as a new therapeutic platform since 2014 through its VentureLabs® innovation unit. “At Flagship, we have been involved in exploring the utility of exosomes in a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic settings for some time,” noted Noubar Afeyan, PhD, also founder and CEO of Flagship Ventures and soon serving on Codiak’s board of directors. “Based on our early involvement in this rapidly emerging field, we were impressed by the findings reported from Kalluri’s laboratory at MD Anderson. We are excited by the premise and the promise of Codiak BioSciences and are delighted to partner with ARCH Venture Partners as co-lead founding investors in the company.”
“Exosomes are a promising new field of study and a potential source of new diagnostic and treatment approaches to cancer,” noted Ronald A. De Pinho, MD, president of MD Anderson. “Continued innovation in research through collaborative partnerships may serve us well in the pursuit of new therapies that can bring true benefits to patients.”
Codiak BioSciences will be based in the Boston/Cambridge metropolitan area. Besides ARCH Ventures, Flagship Ventures and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, other investors include Fidelity Management and Research Company, the Alaska Permanent Fund and Alexandria Venture Investments, all contributing to the initial $80-plus million Series A and Series B funding syndicate.