Through the Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation, Northpond will sponsor SomaCode to support commercialization
By Lindsay Brownell
(BOSTON) — The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Northpond Ventures announced today that Northpond Labs, the venture capital firm’s research- and development-focused affiliate, has signed an agreement to support a second Wyss project and accelerate its development toward commercialization.
Established in 2020 with the involvement of Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, the five-year strategic research alliance created The Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation at the Wyss Institute through a $12 million commitment from Northpond Labs to support impactful research with strong translational potential.
The new agreement funds the Wyss Institute’s SomaCode project, led by Soufiane Aboulhouda, Oliver Dodd, and George Church, Ph.D. SomaCode aims to solve a key problem plaguing cell therapies: getting therapeutic cells to their targets in the body so they can interact with diseased cells. SomaCode’s pooled in vivo discovery platform identifies genetic modifications that influence how immune cells actively home to tissues of interest, with the goal of improving immune cell trafficking to solid tumors. Church is a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute and the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.
“The SomaCode project team really impressed us with their systematic approach to addressing a therapeutic challenge, supported by milestone-driven deliverables and entrepreneurial drive. We are very excited to be a part of this project’s continuing development into a commercially viable platform that can meet a major need in cell therapy development and help unlock many potential treatments for debilitating diseases,” said Michael Rubin, Ph.D., Northpond’s Founder and CEO.
SomaCode was named a Wyss Institute Validation Project in 2020 in recognition of its potential for significant positive impact in the treatment of many diseases, and was renewed for a second year of Validation Project funding in 2021. The team is currently working to de-risk the platform and study the biology of cell trafficking in disease conditions.
“We’re thrilled to receive this project funding that allows us to significantly accelerate this exciting research, and for the opportunity to work with and learn from the incredible interdisciplinary team at Northpond. We look forward to the high-impact science this funding will enable,” said Aboulhouda, who is a graduate student in the Church Lab.
SomaCode is the second Wyss project to be funded by Northpond Labs. The first, Controlled Enzymatic RNA Synthesis (now known as EnPlusOne), developed a novel, environmentally sustainable manufacturing process that more efficiently produces synthetic RNA oligonucleotides, which have major potential as RNA therapeutics, vaccines, drug delivery vehicles, and genome editing tools. The technology was created in the Institute’s Synthetic Biology platform and was named a Wyss Validation Project for its promising commercial potential. The EnPlusOne team aims to position their technology to help meet the dramatically increased industrial demand for oligonucleotides, with which traditional chemical synthesis methods are struggling to keep up.
“We are delighted to see another talented team from the Wyss Institute receive important financial and business development support from Northpond Labs. This Alliance has proven invaluable in accelerating innovative technology development toward a positive impact in the world, and we look forward to many more groundbreaking collaborations,” said Angelika Fretzen, Ph.D., the Wyss Institute’s Technology Translation Director and Chief Operating Officer.