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New Biotech Developing Synthetic Long-Term RNA

Avak Kahvejian

Avak Kahvejian (Flagship Pioneering)

10 May 2021. A new enterprise, created by a life science venture capital company, began work on developing therapies with long-acting synthetic RNA. The company Laronde is spun-off from venture capital investor Flagship Pioneering in Cambridge, Massachusetts, staked to $50 million in initial funding.

Laronde designs therapies with a synthetic form of RNA that overcomes drawbacks of messenger RNA, the underlying technology in some of the vaccines to prevent Covid-19 infections. In its natural form, the end of a messenger RNA strand interacts with ribosomes, particles in cells that translate RNA sequences one time from the original genetic code into amino acids for proteins. Another natural type of RNA, called long non-coding RNAs or lncRNAs, form into circular strands in cells that do not interact with ribosomes, and thus do not convert into amino acids.

A Flagship Pioneering team led by its general partner Avak Kahvejian began researching the eRNA idea in 2017. “We asked,” says Kahvejian in a Flagship Pioneering statement, “‘What if the circular nature of certain lncRNAs makes them ultra-stable in the body? Could we benefit from that stability to make a new class of therapeutic by making an RNA that has no free ends, but is translatable?’”

Laronde plans to create treatments for disease with synthetic circular RNA forms designed to interact with ribosomes, but operate continuously to provide therapeutic effects over longer periods of time. The company calls this concept endless RNA or eRNA, with programmable modules plugged into the basic RNA structure for producing amino acid chemistries for specific peptides, antibodies, enzymes, or receptors. The circular design, says the company, also prevents the immune system from reacting to eRNAs, making them more stable and allowing for longer-term therapeutic effects.

Create 100 new drugs in 10 years

Kahvejian adds, “eRNA therapeutics have the potential to be an essential and widespread class of medicines, expanding beyond small molecules and antibodies in their therapeutic applicability and utility. We can program eRNA medicines to code for a wide variety of therapeutic modalities.”

Diego Miralles, a Flagship Pioneering partner and CEO of Laronde notes, “Because the programmable platform is so scalable, we have the potential to parallel process the development of multiple programs at the same time that, if successful, could help millions of people around the world.”

The company expects to create 100 new treatments in the next 10 years, from its ability to scale up the process and produce therapies in parallel. Laronde says it plans to build a manufacturing plant for its treatments and hire some 200 people in the next two years.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a company like Laronde, which will advance such a groundbreaking therapeutic platform capable of biological applications we could only dream of a few years ago,” says Miralles, adding “We look forward to recruiting the best talent in the industry to build a great company that will fully realize the potential of eRNA.”

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