Hot biotech startup Coferon decamping for Florida

Coferon co-founder Maneesh Pingle: An abrupt move out of Stony Brook University's high-tech incubator.

By GREGORY ZELLER // Coferon, a biotech firm headed by former OSI Pharmaceuticals chief Colin Goddard and a rising star in the region’s innovation economy, has abruptly left its incubator space at Stony Brook University and is likely heading for Florida.

Company co-founder Maneesh Pingle declined to comment on why the startup had left the incubator, saying only that the firm was “still working out the details” and that company officials would be making a more official announcement in the coming weeks.

“There’s nothing definite in the world,” Pingle told Innovate LI. “But there’s talk and a very good chance that we’re going to be in Florida. The only thing that’s known for sure is that we’re out of the incubator.”

Founded in 2009 by Pingle, Dr. Francis Barany and Dr. Don Bergstrom, Coferon uses its proprietary “bio-orthogonal linker chemistry” to induce chemical reactions inside living systems, like human cells, without harming native biochemical processes. The firm’s science creates self-assembling “coferons” inside target cells; when assembled, the tiniest coferons can form much larger therapeutic molecules with the potency and selectivity to deliver pharmaceutical haymakers directly to wayward cells.

Goddard, who led OSI to a $4 billion acquisition by Astellas Pharmaceuticals in 2010, joined Coferon as an investor and executive chairman in 2011 and became CEO in 2012. He will remain the company’s chief executive during and after the move, according to Pingle.

The science, and art, of bridging small-molecule drugs that can be delivered orally but lack target specificity and large biomolecule drugs – like antibodies – that can specify targets but can’t be taken orally or access targets inside cells, has earned Coferon plenty of attention.

Company principals presented at this year’s BioCentury Future Leaders in Biotech Conference in New York City, and also at 2013’s Life Sciences Summit, an early-stage investor and business-development conference also held in NYC.

In a March special report, regional business booster Accelerate Long Island named Coferon one of its 14 hottest startups.