Press Releases 10.28.2020
Flagship Pioneering Unveils Senda Biosciences to Pioneer Intersystems Biology and Create Novel Treatments for Human Disease
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., October 28, 2020 – Flagship Pioneering today announced the unveiling of Senda Biosciences, a therapeutics platform company leveraging unprecedented insights into the molecular connections between humans and coevolved nonhuman species. Senda is pioneering a new research discipline it calls intersystems biology, and it will create novel treatments for human disease. Senda combines multiple research efforts in intersystems biology originated by Flagship Labs across several predecessor companies, and has been capitalized with $88 million to date.
Intersystems biology focuses on how molecular connections between botanical, bacterial, and human cells—coevolved over millennia—define health and disease. It builds on a decade of advances in research on the microbiome, “omics,” and big data, and moves beyond traditional taxonomic descriptions to delineate interspecies interactions using new techniques in machine learning and computational biology. Senda’s discovery platform has generated unique, actionable insights into the trillions of interspecies molecular connections in the human body, and it harnesses the power of this “pharmacy within us” with novel pharmacological approaches. The platform will enable the creation of entirely new categories of medicines, with applications in a wide variety of therapeutic areas.
Medicines exploiting insights from intersystems biology will:
- Achieve systemic health effects while minimizing drug exposure, by targeting the nonhuman species in our body’s ecosystem;
- Deliver compounds in highly precise ways, via selectively activated molecules;
- Deploy large biomolecules—such as peptides and nucleic acids—through oral administration for the first time.
“For more than a decade, Flagship has been at the forefront of discoveries and therapeutic development focused on the microbiome. Intersystems biology represents the next frontier in our understanding of human biology,” says Noubar Afeyan, PhD, founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering. “Based on its unprecedented view into how species like plants and bacteria interact with human cells at the molecular level, and Senda’s ability to disrupt and direct how these interactions occur, the company is uniquely positioned to develop transformative therapeutic modalities in multiple disease categories. By introducing altogether new types of medicines—potentially safer, more precise, and more convenient than current standards of care—Senda can and will change patients’ lives.”
The Senda discovery platform provides never-before-seen molecular resolution into interspecies connections, with interactions mapped to exact locations across the human gastrointestinal tract. As a result, the platform can identify, quantify, and locate molecular connections with hundreds of times the diversity of traditional stool-based sampling methods commonly used today. The power of the Senda platform is illustrated by six ongoing preclinical programs with an IND submission expected for each by the end of 2022 (all of them precision small-molecule drugs):
- Neurology: multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease
- Oncology: immuno-oncology and colorectal cancer
- Chronic and metabolic disease: chronic kidney disease and obesity
Senda is also developing novel plant- and bacteria-derived transfer modalities for large biomolecules, inspired by the natural evolutionary molecular communication features of these nonhuman species.
Senda is the result of multiple research efforts by Flagship Labs, Flagship Pioneering’s innovation foundry, and was co-founded by Partners David Berry, MD, PhD, and Ignacio Martinez, MBA; Principal John Casey, PhD; Senior Associates David Kolesky, PhD, and Hok Hei Tam PhD; and Associate Ellen van Rooijen, PhD.
Senda’s senior leadership team includes Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Pfefer, PhD, a 25-year veteran of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries who also serves as a CEO-Partner at Flagship Pioneering. Guillaume Pfefer most recently served as Senior Vice President, Global Vaccine Leader for SHINGRIX, GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) vaccine for the prevention of shingles. Chief Scientific Officer Scott Plevy, MD, is a gastroenterologist and molecular immunologist who has previously held leadership positions at Synlogic and Janssen Immunology Research & Development.
Senda’s Board of Directors includes a number of accomplished entrepreneurs and industry thought leaders including Chairman John Mendlein, JD, PhD, Executive Partner at Flagship; Ignacio Martinez, MBA, General Partner at Flagship; David Berry, MD, PhD, General Partner at Flagship; Luis Cantarell, former President and CEO of Nestlé Health Science; Mary Szela, MBA, President and CEO of TriSalus Life Sciences; Luke O’Neill, PhD, chair of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin; and Guillaume Pfefer, PhD, CEO of Senda Biosciences.
Guillaume Pfefer says, “I have been fortunate to be part of the advancement of many groundbreaking medicines during my career, but it is a rare opportunity to be part of a company pioneering an entirely novel approach to treating some of society’s most intractable diseases. With the talents already assembled at team, directorship, and scientific advisory levels, we are uniquely equipped to rapidly position the company as the uncontested leader in the field of intersystems biology and make a difference in the lives of the countless patients who can benefit from Senda’s novel medicines.”
About Senda Biosciences
Senda Biosciences is pioneering the field of intersystems biology to create novel treatments for human disease. Intersystems biology focuses on how molecular connections between botanical, bacterial, and human cells—coevolved over millennia—define health and disease. Senda’s intersystems biology discovery platform, built using new techniques in machine learning and computational biology, has been able to generate novel, actionable insights into the trillions of interspecies molecular connections in the human body, and harnesses the power of this “pharmacy within us” with novel pharmacological approaches. The power of the Senda platform is illustrated by six preclinical programs in oncology, neurology, chronic disease, and metabolic disease. Senda was founded by Flagship Labs, the innovation foundry of Flagship Pioneering. To learn more, please visit the company’s website at www.sendabiosciences.com.
About Flagship Pioneering
Flagship Pioneering conceives, creates, resources, and develops first-in-category life sciences companies to transform human health and sustainability. Since its launch in 2000, the firm has applied a unique hypothesis-driven innovation process to originate and foster more than 100 scientific ventures, resulting in over $34 billion in aggregate value. To date, Flagship is backed by more than $4.4 billion of aggregate capital commitments, of which over $1.9 billion has been deployed toward the founding and growth of its pioneering companies alongside more than $10 billion of follow-on investments from other institutions. The current Flagship ecosystem comprises 41 transformative companies, including Axcella Health (NASDAQ: AXLA), Denali Therapeutics (NASDAQ: DNLI), Evelo Biosciences (NASDAQ: EVLO), Foghorn Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FHTX), Indigo Ag, Kaleido Biosciences (NASDAQ: KLDO), Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), Rubius Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RUBY), Sana Biotechnology, Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB), Sigilon Therapeutics, and Syros Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SYRS).
Ogilvy for Flagship