Flagship's embattled Laronde sets sail with Senda in merger

Flagship Pioneering’s Senda Biosciences and Laronde are merging into Sail Biomedicines, a new biotech designed to develop programmable medicines with more than $700 million in its combined coffers.

The new vessel will be helmed by Flagship CEO-Partner and Senda CEO Guillaume Pfefer, Ph.D., while Flagship Executive Partner John Mendlein, Ph.D., will serve as Sail’s executive chair. Financial details of the merger were not disclosed.

The deal comes after Laronde raised a massive $440 million series B in 2021, a huge jump from its earlier $50 million launch. Then, this summer, the biotech faced scrutiny relating to the integrity of the preclinical data used to fuel the series B financing. The company, hoping to develop a new class of genetic medicine dubbed endless RNA (eRNA), was subject of a Stat and Boston Globe investigation that revealed a “bad assay” and poor note-taking in some of the key research.

In the fallout, the biotech shelved its two most advanced programs, including a GLP-1 therapy for obesity, according to Stat and The Boston Globe.  

Now, the eRNA company is shedding its name and blending with Senda, an RNA company that has raised $226 million since its founding in 2016.  

Sail will combine programmable circular RNA technology with a programmable nanoparticles platform—presumably from Laronde and Senda, respectively—to unlock comprehensive programming of medicines. While neither Senda or Laronde have publicly disclosed pipelines, Mendlein suggested the resulting combination will defy logic. 

"Endless RNA has the potential to create an entirely new class of programmable medicines across therapeutic areas that we will now be able to deliver directly to cells and tissues via deployment molecules with unique properties to confer specificity and greater tolerability," Mendlein said in an Oct. 19 release. "We believe these programmable medicines will be greatly enhanced via our proprietary generative AI technologies and rapid prototyping abilities to achieve breakthroughs currently beyond the grasp of the human mind.”