CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Codiak BioSciences, Inc. has entered into two strategic collaborations with the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard to investigate the potential of its exoVACC vaccine platform in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; and in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As part of the sponsored collaboration research agreements, Codiak researchers will work with Bruce Walker, M.D., and Gaurav Gaiha, M.D., D.Phil., of the Ragon Institute. The collaboration will build integrated exosome-based vaccines aimed at inducing broad neutralizing antibody and antigen-specific T cell protection against the viruses.
“Drs. Walker and Gaiha are luminaries in antiviral vaccine research. We are honored to collaborate to combine exoVACC with their T cell antigen prediction algorithm and biological assays in an attempt to tackle some of society’s most pressing diseases,” said Douglas E. Williams, president and chief executive officer of Codiak BioSciences. “ExoVACC allows us to deliver multiple complex antigens and adjuvants, activating the key arms of the immune system to produce comprehensive immunity against the virus, similar to patients who recover from the infection. Specifically, the ability to target immune responses to the lung and other mucosal surfaces where infection occurs could represent an advance in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 and future SARS coronaviruses.”
exoVACC is Codiak’s proprietary and modular vaccine system. It utilizes the unique properties of exosomes to deliver antigens and adjuvants simultaneously and selectively to the same antigen presenting cells. Using its engEx engineering platform, Codiak can incorporate antigens and adjuvants within a single exosome multiple complex, as well as cell-targeting ligands and immune co-stimulatory molecules. These exosomes engage targets by cellular uptake, membrane-to-membrane interaction or a combination of both mechanisms, and are designed to change the biological functioning of the recipient cells in order to produce the intended biological effect.
For SARS-CoV-2, Codiak will collaborate with the lab of Gaiha, associate member at the Ragon Institute and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, to evaluate the ability of exoVACC to induce neutralizing antibody and antigen-specific T cell responses in the lung and other mucosal surfaces where SARS-CoV-2 can initiate infections. The Walker/Gaiha lab will provide to Codiak SARS-CoV-2 antigens which were identified using the Ragon Institute's innovative computational methods.
Codiak will generate combinatorial exoVACC candidates directed against these T cell epitopes and validated B cell epitopes, which the Gaiha lab will then evaluate for specificity and potency. If successful, the exoVACC candidates should then be ready for efficacy assessments in animal models of viral infection.
“We are thrilled to work with Codiak BioSciences. We believe that by integrating our expertise in cellular immunology with Codiak’s versatile exosome vaccine platform, we have the potential to develop a highly innovative and effective vaccine for SARS-CoV-2,” added Gaiha.
For HIV, Codiak plans to collaborate with the labs of both Gaiha and Walker, who is founding director of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and the director of the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research. The Gaiha and Walker labs will provide Codiak HIV antigens. Codiak will generate exoVACC candidates directed against one or multiple T cell epitopes, which the Gaiha and Walker labs will then evaluate for potency.
This work is funded in part by an Evergrande COVID-19 Response Fund Award, which was granted to Codiak and the Ragon Institute by the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness. After the initial phase of work is completed, Codiak has an option to negotiate exclusive licenses for technology developed under both collaborations.