Codagenix, SUNY RF ink exclusive licensing deal

Go team: (From left) Steffan Mueller and J. Robert Coleman of Codagenix, SBU Distinguished Professor Eckard Wimmer, SBU computer scientist Steven Skienna and researcher Charles Stauft, holding a Zika assay.

A year of big steps has led to one giant leap for Codagenix.

Stony Brook University, through the Research Foundation for the State University of New York, has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with the Farmingdale-based biotech to commercialize a platform technology aiming to create a “pipeline of live attenuated vaccines” against viral infections attacking humans and other animals.

codagenix-logo-2The exclusive licensing agreement, announced Wednesday, involves technology developed in the laboratory of Eckard Wimmer, a distinguished professor in SBU’s Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology.

The tech includes software that redesigns the genomes of potentially harmful viruses to create safe and effective vaccines. Wimmer collaborated with researchers Steven Skienna and Bruce Futcher – of SBU’s computer science and molecular genetics & microbiology departments, respectively – to create computer algorithms that “re-code” virus genes, producing much weaker strands that serve as ideal low-dose vaccines.

Wimmer, who performed years of virus-gene research alongside Codagenix cofounders J. Robert Coleman and Steffan Mueller in Wimmer’s SBU laboratory, said speed will be the commercialized platform’s ultimate edge.

“The advantage to our strategy and technology behind it is that we can design virus vaccine candidates quickly,” Wimmer said Wednesday. “These candidates yield weak but stable microbes and can be synthesized in just a few weeks for testing.”

The first human testing of a synthesized vaccine is already scheduled, with a vaccine against seasonal influenza slated for Phase I clinical trials in 2017.

Working fast has been the modus operandi for Codagenix, a 2012 startup that relocated this year from SBU’s Long Island High Technology Incubator to Farmingdale State College’s Broad Hollow Bioscience Park. In September, the company announced it had commenced in vivo testing of its live-attenuated Zika virus vaccine just 27 days after plugging the virus into its synthetic biology-based platform.

Other highlights of the fast-moving company’s big 2016 include a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to deploy the vaccine-creation technology against swine flu.

The exclusive licensing agreement with SUNY RF enables Codagenix to develop and potentially market a host of next-generation vaccines using the software-based gene design, with human testing against Zika and other viruses not far behind the influenza study.

The biotech, which in addition to National Institutes of Health seed funding and multiple USDA grants has also benefitted from several private investments, is also partnering with a “large agricultural company” to create vaccines for companion animals and agricultural livestock, according to SBU.

“There is a growing need for vaccines that work and that can be made rapidly, as evidenced by the Zika epidemic and other diseases,” Coleman said in a statement announcing the licensing deal. “The SUNY RF ‘disruptive’ genome recoding technology shakes up the way vaccines are currently made, and the approach provides a rational means to designing vaccines against multiple targets.”

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