By GREGOERY ZELLER //
A seven-figure Regional Economic Development Council award is set to push an innovative influenza vaccine toward human trials.
Codagenix, a 2012 startup cofounded by Farmingdale State College biology professor J. Robert Coleman and former Stony Brook University assistant research professor Steffen Mueller, received $2.25 million through the 2015 REDC awards, which were announced in December. All told, 121 Long Island projects collected $98.3 million through the fifth-annual REDC process, many focused on technology and biotech.
The $2.25 million will be used primarily to relocate Codagenix from SBU’s Long Island High Technology Incubator to Farmingdale State College’s Broad Hollow Bioscience Park. Codagenix will still keep “a small satellite lab” at the LIHTI, Coleman told Innovate LI, but the lion’s share of its work will shift in February to Broad Hollow, where the company has leased about 1,500 square feet of wet-lab and office space.
The biotech firm will employ about half-a-dozen researchers and support staffers in the new digs, according to the Codagenix COO, who said the state funds will also be used to “solidify the consortium with Codagenix, Farmingdale State and Broad Hollow.”
“We’ll be using our platform technology to work toward vaccines for multiple targets, both viral and bacterial,” Coleman said. “This will also facilitate interactions with Farmingdale students, giving them exposure to the biotech industry as well as doing some collaborative research on other projects with the college going forward.”
Codagenix uses a proprietary software platform to digitally recreate viruses and redesign their genomes. The “re-coded” viruses are then synthesized from scratch and have proven in lab tests to be highly effective vaccine candidates.
This tech has allowed the company to create what Coleman called “a whole pipeline of viral and bacterial vaccine candidates.” The first major project slated to come out of the new lab is human trials of the company’s intranasal influenza vaccine.
Currently producing clinical-grade samples with the help of an unnamed U.S. manufacturing partner, Codagenix is now researching potential test sites and plans to initiate a Phase 1 trial of its flu treatment by the fourth quarter of 2016.
That Phase 1 trial will include 100 patients and, once it starts, it will move fast: From patient recruitment to completion, the entire trial should take only 60 days, according to Coleman, during which time researchers will be “looking at safety and immune responses.”
Assuming the Phase 1 trial goes well, Codagenix will move quickly into a second phase, which is expected to include a greater number of human trials and involve “other pieces from within our pipelines,” according to Coleman – as well as a Series B funding round to make it all possible.
Funding has been a strong suit for Codagenix since Day 1. In 2014, the startup was among the first companies to receive a joint $100,000 investment from regional business booster Accelerate Long Island and the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, which was followed by a $2 million investment by Topspin Partners, the Roslyn-based venture group.
Before those investments, Codagenix subsisted on roughly $1.9 million in National Institutes of Health grants. The company also shared a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, specifically for the purpose of developing a vaccine for the infectious Foot and Mouth Disease Virus.
Coleman would not say how much Codagenix would look to raise in its Series B round, though he did note the firm is already “in talks with multiple large pharmaceutical companies as well as government contractors.”
And no wonder, considering the potentially lucrative breakthroughs promised by the startup’s genome-redesign technology. Among the vaccines in the company’s pipelines, Coleman noted, is a treatment for respiratory syncytial virus, a common virus that leads to mild cold-like symptoms in adults and healthy older children, but can have more serious effects on babies and the elderly.
The COO cited no existing RSV vaccine – and a $4 billion market waiting to be tapped, based on current treatments and the number of potential annual vaccinations.
“It’s a huge, unmet medical need,” he said.
With numbers like that in the mix, the move to its new laboratory imminent and Albany acknowledging what the NIH and private investors already saw, the barely three-year-old company is thrilled with its rapid progress – even if the development of new vaccines is a slow and steady beast, Coleman noted.
“We’re moving along,” he said. “And we’re very pleased with our progress to date.”