Moderna Therapeutics, a developer of messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics, a treatment modality to enable the in vivo production of therapeutic proteins, has created Onkaido Therapeutics, a new venture focused exclusively on developing mRNA-based oncology treatments.
Onkaido Therapeutics will launch with $20 million in committed capital from Moderna. The new company initially will focus on 15 preclinical drug candidates in apoptosis, central regulatory nodes and immunotherapy. Several of these candidates already are under evaluation in in vivo disease models. By establishing Onkaido as a standalone unit, Moderna intends to accelerate the development of mRNA Therapeutics for oncology and deliver the potential of these new cancer treatments to patients.
Stephen Hoge, M.D., senior vice president, corporate development and new drug concepts at Moderna, will take on the added role of founding CEO for Onkaido. He founded Moderna's internal efforts in oncology. Previously, Hoge was a partner at McKinsey and led the firm's global healthcare and corporate finance practices, advising senior management teams of leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies on a wide range of strategic, financial and operational issues.
Peter F. Smith, Ph.D., will be founding chief scientific officer. Smith has 30 years of pharmaceutical experience at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Searle/Monsanto, Merck Research Laboratories and SmithKline. At Millennium, Smith was senior vice president responsible for all non-clinical discovery and development efforts and helped lead all R&D. Smith also has driven the non-clinical development of several major, marketed drugs including Celebrex, Inspra and Velcade.
"The vast potential for messenger RNA Therapeutics will only be tapped by simultaneously industrializing our platform and developing our key programs in the clinic as quickly and safely as possible," said Stéphane Bancel, president and founding CEO, Moderna Therapeutics.
mRNA Therapeutics are designed to elude the body's innate immune response and work with its natural processes, enabling the in vivo production of both intracellular proteins, which remain within the cells, and secreted proteins, which are released into the bloodstream and act to restore function elsewhere in the body. As a result, the mRNA Therapeutics platform will enable Onkaido to reach known anti-cancer targets that are not addressable through current approaches.