Press Releases 07.11.2022
Flagship Pioneering Launches Apriori Bio to Provide Variant-Proof Protection from the Greatest Viral Threats
Following more than two years of development, Flagship unveils Apriori Bio with $50 million of committed capital
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 11, 2022 – Flagship Pioneering, the bioplatform innovation company, today announced the launch of Apriori Bio, a health security company aimed at providing humanity with variant-proof protection against rapidly evolving viruses. Founded in 2020, Apriori has developed Octavia™, a unique biology-informed AI platform that can infer the full landscape of potential variants for a given virus. Using Octavia, Apriori can define the antibody repertoire that most broadly protects against current and future variants of a virus, enabling the development of variant-proof vaccines and antibody drugs. Flagship’s initial commitment to Apriori is $50 million.
No one can reliably predict which virus or viral variant will be responsible for the next outbreak, and many of the world’s most dangerous viruses evolve faster than new medicines can be developed. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how easily viruses can outwit the human immune system by constantly mutating to either evade vaccines and therapeutics or limit how long they are effective. There are many other viruses that mutate rapidly – including HIV, Influenza, Ebola, and countless others – and such viruses have frustrated every attempt so far to develop effective and durable vaccines.
“The world was brought to its knees two years ago by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must imagine a future in which we secure our health instead of resigning ourselves to being unprepared for viral threats,” said Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering and Co-Founder and Chairman of Apriori Bio. “Apriori Bio’s technology platform can be used to develop vaccines and antibody drugs for viral variants that have yet to emerge, taking a leap toward shielding humanity from existing and future viral threats.”
Rather than chase variants as they evolve, Apriori’s pioneering approach aims to define protection needed towards potential future variants before they appear – “a priori.” After learning the evolutionary paths underlying viral variability, Octavia generates millions of synthetic variants in vitro from anchor sequences. The platform then measures the abilities of antibodies and cell receptors to bind to each variant. Using machine learning, Octavia models how each variant would behave in real life and identifies those that pose the greatest potential threat – which in turn enables the design and development of variant-proof vaccines and antibody drugs already protective against future variants. Importantly, these datasets and tools also enable Octavia to generate real-time pathogen intelligence that can inform public health decisions and policies.
“Future outbreaks are inevitable, but preparedness is a choice. Apriori shifts the concept of preparedness for viral threats,” said Lovisa Afzelius, Ph.D., MBA, Origination Partner at Flagship Pioneering and Co-Founder and CEO of Apriori. “By integrating and learning from evolutionary and experimental data at unprecedented scale, Apriori can infer the behavior of and mitigate the danger posed by existing and future viral variants. Using Octavia, we can design uniquely effective new medicines and support public health by predicting the impact of emerging variants in real time.”
Apriori is actively assessing opportunities to partner with governments and companies, alongside in-house development of vaccines and antibody drugs for an array of viral threats. The company will prioritize viruses of concern to the World Health Organization, starting with SARS-CoV-2, Influenza and HIV before exploring further options.
Apriori’s team draws from the intersection of biological insight and cutting-edge computational science. In addition to Noubar Afeyan and Lovisa Afzelius, Apriori’s founding team includes Alex Goldsmith, Flagship Pioneering Vice President of Strategy and Operations and Chief Operating Officer for Apriori, and Daniel Acker, Flagship Pioneering Senior Associate and Chief Innovation Officer for Apriori. The company’s advisory team includes Jesse Bloom, Ph.D., a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, in Seattle; Arup Chakraborty, Institute Professor MIT and Academic Partner at Flagship Pioneering; Andrew Weber, Former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs; Wellington Sun, M.D., former Head of Vaccine Strategy, Moderna and former Director, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Division of Vaccines; Tom DiLenge, Senior Partner, Global Public Policy, Regulatory, and Governmental Strategy, Flagship Pioneering; and Stephen Hahn, M.D., Flagship Pioneering CEO-Partner and CEO of Harbinger Health. Dr. Hahn served as the 24th Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
About Apriori Bio
Apriori is working to create a world where humanity is protected against viral threats. Our pioneering approach centers on a unique technology platform, Octavia, which allows us to survey the entire landscape of existing and potential viral variants to design new vaccines and antibody drugs against the most threatening variants. Octavia can also inform public health policy in real time by predicting the impact of emerging variants. Apriori was founded in 2020 in Flagship Labs, a unit of Flagship Pioneering. For more information visit www.aprioribio.com or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter at @AprioriBio.
About Flagship Pioneering
Flagship Pioneering conceives, creates, resources, and develops first-in-category bioplatform companies to transform human health and sustainability. Since its launch in 2000, the firm has, through its Flagship Labs unit, applied its unique hypothesis-driven innovation process to originate and foster more than 100 scientific ventures, resulting in more than $100 billion in aggregate value. To date, Flagship has deployed over $2.9 billion in capital toward the founding and growth of its pioneering companies alongside more than $19 billion of follow-on investments from other institutions. The current Flagship ecosystem comprises 41 transformative companies, including Denali Therapeutics (NASDAQ: DNLI), Evelo Biosciences (NASDAQ: EVLO), Foghorn Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FHTX), Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), Omega Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OMGA), Rubius Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RUBY), Sana Biotechnology (NASDAQ: SANA), and Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB).