Codiak raises $77M to trial exosome-enabled therapies

Codiak CEO Doug Williams (Source: Codiak)

Codiak BioSciences has raised $76.5 million. The series C, which moves Codiak’s total haul up toward $170 million, tees the exosome-focused biotech up to move its lead candidate into clinical trials.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Codiak emerged in 2015 boasting a leadership team headed by ex-Biogen R&D chief Doug Williams and $31 million in venture funding. A $61 million series B followed just months later as Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures and other investors comfortable placing big bets on biotech piled in.

Arch, Flagship and other existing investors have returned for the $76.5 million round, which marks the point Codiak sets its sights on the clinic. At the time of the series A, Williams talked up the possibility of getting into phase 1 in 2016. But Codiak is now at the point it has initial product candidates ready to push through the final steps in the preclinical process.

While the timelines have shifted somewhat since the series A, Codiak’s scientific focus has held steady. The biotech was founded on the back of research that expanded understanding of the role of exosomes beyond cellular trash removal. 

That led to recognition it may be possible to hustle nucleic acids and other macromolecules into cells hidden inside exosomes, thereby bypassing the mechanism the body uses to repel invaders. 

In June, an MD Anderson team including Raghu Kalluri, M.D., Ph.D., who was an early collaborator with Codiak, showed uptake of RNAi-laden exosomes by pancreatic tumors in mice. That raised hopes the approach can drug KRAS, a hard-to-hit location of oncogenic mutations. But it left the question of whether the payload suffers lysosome-dependent degradation unanswered.  

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Codiak is now nearly ready to start dispelling doubts with clinical data. 

“Investors are clearly seeing the versatility of exosomes as a therapeutic platform with broad utility and the capacity to address currently undruggable targets, offering multiple paths to clinical and commercial success,” Williams said in a statement. 

Codiak has succeeded in selling the potential of the idea to a clutch of new investors, including Qatar Investment Authority. The $300 billion-plus sovereign wealth fund has participated in major investments in emerging tech giants Flipkart and Uber, plus carmaker Karma Automotive, over the past decade. But in general is better known for its investments in real estate than startups.

The fund’s participation in the Codiak round is one indication that could be about to change. QIA is planning to open an office in San Francisco to add to its existing presence in New York, potentially positioning it to get deeper into tech and biotech startups. And, despite the difficulties created by the blockade of the country, the CEO of the fund has talked up plans to invest big, not back out.