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Former Biogen R&D Chief Resurfaces at $80M Startup Codiak Biosciences Pursuing Cancer, Alzheimer’s

November 20, 2015

Codiak Biosciences

Codiak BiosciencesDoug Williams left one of biotechnology’s biggest R&D jobs, at Biogen, in July. Now we know why.

Williams is now the founding CEO of Codiak Biosciences, a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup. The little company is announcing today it has raised $80 million in committed venture capital spread over two installments. Two venture firms known for creating ambitious biotech companies, ARCH Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures, pieced it together to build on exosome biology from the lab of Raghu Kalluri at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Tex. Fidelity Management and Research, the Alaska Permanent Fund and Alexandria Venture Investments joined the financing.

This company aspires to be the first mover in using exosome biology to develop drugs. Exosomes are tiny vesicles secreted by all cells, and present in the blood and other bodily fluids. Since being discovered in the early 1980s, many scientists believed their role was just to dispose of cellular trash, such as chewed up pieces of DNA and RNA. More recently, scientists have learned that certain cancer-cell derived exosomes carry specific proteins on the surface that act like big red flags that are distinct to the cancer, and can be detected with standard lab tools. Not only that, exosomes can carry drug payloads, in the form of messenger RNA molecules, microRNAs, antibody fragments, or even whole antibodies to a specific site, Williams said. These small vesicles can get inside cells a couple different ways, and dump their payloads in the cell’s cytoplasm.

Taken together, it raises the possibility of targeted drug delivery to certain cells, or tissues. Diagnostics are another potential application. That was enough to excite ARCH and Flagship with possibilities, and to get Williams to leave a high-powered job to start something.

Read More – Source: Former Biogen R&D Chief Resurfaces at $80M Startup Pursuing Cancer, Alzheimer’s – Forbes

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