Codiak Is Launched To Exploit The Exosome | November 17, 2015 Issue - Vol. 93 Issue 46 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 46 | p. 7 | News of The Week
Issue Date: November 23, 2015 | Web Date: November 19, 2015

Codiak Is Launched To Exploit The Exosome

Biotechnology: Start-up raises $80 million to develop exosome-based drugs and diagnostics
Department: Business
News Channels: Analytical SCENE, Biological SCENE
Keywords: pharmaceuticals, biotech, exosomes, microRNA
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WAY OUT
Exosomes, produced in all types of cells by a branch of the same pathway that produces lysosomes, carry biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Exosomes bear the signatures of their cells of origin.Exosomes carry biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids.
An illustration of exosomes leaving a cell.
 
WAY OUT
Exosomes, produced in all types of cells by a branch of the same pathway that produces lysosomes, carry biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Exosomes bear the signatures of their cells of origin.Exosomes carry biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids.

Looking to exploit a natural cellular communication highway, a new company, Codiak BioSciences, has launched with $80 million in venture capital funding to develop exosome-based drugs and diagnostics.

One of the larger therapeutic company launches this year, Codiak is backed by Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. It’s cofounded by Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard.

Exosomes are tiny lipid-membrane-enclosed packets secreted by many kinds of cells. Once thought to be mere cellular garbage trucks, existing primarily to shuttle trash to the lysosome for compacting, exosomes are now known to play a role in cellular cross talk. They carry a range of biomolecules—including proteins, nucleic acids, and sugars—between cells.

In July, Codiak cofounder Raghu Kalluri of MD Anderson used mass spectrometry to show that a molecule called glypican-1 (GPC1) sits on the surface of cancer cell-derived exosomes but not on normal exosomes. By looking for that marker in blood samples, Kalluri’s team was able to precisely distinguish between people and mice with pancreatic cancer and healthy subjects (Nature 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14581).

Analyzing the genetic contents of exosomes decorated with GPC1 could allow researchers to detect cancer at an early stage. Codiak will develop diagnostics based on that work, but the firm also wants to use exosomes as a delivery vehicle for therapeutics.

“We can actually load into exosomes regulatory RNA, messenger RNA, inhibitory RNA,” says Douglas Williams, who recently left a prime job as head of R&D at Biogen to become Codiak’s CEO.

Moreover, according to Williams, exosomes produced by specific cell types have a propensity to fuse with membranes of other cell types. Exploiting this property, Codiak intends to tailor exosomes to deliver therapeutics to tissues of interest. Codiak’s first drug will target pancreatic cancer.

The biggest challenge for Codiak will be turning an academic endeavor into a business. In its early days, Williams says, Codiak will focus on developing a way “to make large numbers of exosomes in a controlled fashion” to generate a product that can be used in humans.

Flagship Ventures has been interested in exosome-based therapies since last year, when it launched VentureLabs Newco VL27, a start-up based on technology from the labs of Jan Lötvall, chair of the Krefting Research Centre at the University of Gothenburg. In 2007, Lötvall discovered exosomes could contain messenger RNA and microRNA and transfer that genetic information between cells. Flagship has merged VL27 into Codiak.

Several companies and academic labs are developing diagnostics based on exosomes, including Exosome Diagnostics, NX PharmaGen, and Exosomics Siena. Codiak, however, is among just a few firms to pursue exosome-based therapies. Williams has already hired a handful of scientists and expects Codiak to employ up to 30 people in the next year.

 
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