We could program any human cell in vivo – anywhere in the body, for any type of cell function, using any route of administration?
Nature provides the codes necessary to program human cells. The genetic code enables us to program within the cell – unleashing the modern era of information molecule-based drug development (nucleic acid therapies, gene editors, cell therapy). Remarkably, nature also provides the codes to program to the cell, with millions of natural nanoparticles already involved in cross-kingdom cellular communication throughout the human ecosystem. With nature providing the language to program to and within cells of choice, we now have the tools to develop a novel class of truly programmable medicines.
Flagship Pioneering founded Senda Biosciences to create a new field of medicine, leveraging insights from the naturally occurring exchange of molecules between human and non-human cells in the human ecosystem. For millions of years, nature has been accessing the human genetic code to program within our cells. This fundamental understanding has driven a revolution in the development of “information molecule-based” medicines—including nucleic acid therapies, gene editors and cell therapies—over the past 20 years.
Remarkably, nature also provides codes enabling programming to human cells by employing molecules known as natural nanoparticles, which are abundant across all kingdoms of life in our ecosystem. The science behind this approach exploits a decade of advances in metagenomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, and computational biology to drive the creation of novel, potentially groundbreaking medicines. By leveraging cutting-edge science and the simplicity of natural, highly evolved interspecies cellular communication, Senda is poised to bring new levels of therapeutic specificity to key cells, tissue types, and organs of interest, in turn solving some of drug development’s largest challenges.
Founded by Flagship Pioneering in 2018, Senda Biosciences evolved from various distinct explorations between human and non-human cells by the scientist-entrepreneurs of Flagship Labs, including multiple Flagship ProtoCompanies exploring this space (FL52, FL62, FL45). In mid-2020, Flagship merged these projects into a single major venture focused on creating programmable medicines by harnessing the codes provided by nature.
The efforts were driven by a core intuition: that our bodies contain bidirectional exchanges of molecules between human cells and non-human species that play a defining role in human health and well-being. There is incredible power in the mechanisms present at this point of exchange – the product of millennia of evolution – with the potential to solve some of drug development’s greatest challenges.
Insight: harnessing nature’s codes for programmability with the Senda platform
The Senda platform comprehensively deconstructs the codes provided by nature to harness them for therapeutic purposes.
Senda is building on the incredible advancements of the past 20 years of using nature’s codes to program within the cell – which has led to the advent of information molecule-based therapeutic approaches.
In founding Senda, Flagship’s core realization was that nature also provides codes to program to human cells – providing a map of chemical “addresses” that could enable us to get to the specific cell of choice in vivo. This has been the fundamental challenge of the information molecule era, and by unlocking the ability to program to the cell of choice, Senda could lead the industry toward realizing the full potential of programmable medicines – dramatically increasing the speed, breadth and productivity of drug development.
Senda’s foundational insight: within the human ecosystem, trillions of coevolved non-human cells continually exchange molecules with our own cells. This intricate exchange – including the use of natural nanoparticles that have evolved to precisely shuttle biomolecules into human cells – provides the missing pieces to fully unlock programmable medicines. The variety, versatility and limitless combinatorial power of the subcomponents of these natural nanoparticles creates a programming language of its own.
By applying deep molecular analytics and advanced data science, Senda is understanding how this code can be used to drive unique and specific therapeutic functions. Senda is charting the first-ever atlas of nature-derived programmable systems at the molecular level and across all kingdoms of life – accessing the entire code provided by nature necessary to program cells. This unique approach enables Senda to develop medicines with the potential to get to the cell of interest repeatedly through various routes of administration and with the desired therapeutic effect (from protein expression to cell programming).
Opportunity: achieving new frontiers in programmable medicines
With this novel approach rooted in nature, Senda is developing a new class of fully programmable medicines with potential applications across infectious, genetic, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases, as well as oncology indications.
The unique properties of these medicines include tissue targeting beyond the liver, repeatable dosing with sustained expression, tunable in vivo immunomodulation, and multiple routes of administration – creating new frontiers for mRNA therapeutics and vaccines (Senda’s initial area of focus), with further potential to transform the gene editing and protein-based therapy landscapes as well.
Senda has demonstrated the potential of its platform across each of these areas in hundreds of preclinical studies, in species ranging from rodents to non-human primates.
Senda Biosciences is a first-in-category company in the tradition of other Flagship Pioneering therapeutics companies such as Moderna, Laronde, and Tessera Therapeutics. It is establishing a new field and developing an unprecedented platform for the creation of novel medicines.