- Posted by ISPE Boston
- On January 10, 2020
Flagship Pioneering has launched Ring Therapeutics, an early-stage biotech developing first-in-class gene therapies using a new viral vector platform based on its groundbreaking work on the human commensal virome. Ring’s technology promises to address many of the limitations of current DNA and gene therapies, such as limited access to diverse tissues, inability to redose, risk of genomic integration, and poor tolerability. Ring’s founding and continued development are resourced by an initial capital commitment of $50 million from Flagship Pioneering.
The human commensal virome is a collection of recently uncovered DNA sequences of viral origin that exist as episomal DNA, alongside the 23 chromosomes of the human genome. This human extrachromosomal genome is intrinsic to human biology; it is highly prevalent in the population, ubiquitous throughout the body, persistent and nonpathogenic. Ring has discovered thousands of commensal viruses throughout the human body that coexist with our immune system. The company plans to use these viruses to generate a wide array of tissue-targeted, redosable vectors for gene therapy.
Current viral DNA therapy platforms (such as adeno-associated virus, or AAV) are not effective in some patients, because they often induce a strong immune response that prevents the administration or re-administration of these vectors. This limits the applicability of such platforms to the treatment of many diseases.
“With Ring, we are truly forging new ground by pioneering an entirely new category of DNA medicines based on nature,” said Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, and cofounder and chairman of Ring Therapeutics.
Ring Therapeutics was founded by Flagship Pioneering in 2017 when the firm’s scientists asked, “What if we could uncover and harness commensal viruses to deliver nucleic acid therapeutics safely and repeatedly?” Led by Ring’s founding CEO and Flagship Pioneering partner Avak Kahvejian, Ph.D., and founding head of innovation and Flagship senior associate Erica Weinstein, Ph.D., a team of scientists discovered thousands of anelloviruses in a diverse set of tissues and uncovered their unique biology. With this understanding, Ring is developing Anellovector therapeutics that leverage the inherent properties of the commensal virome to address significant unmet medical needs.
Over two years, Ring has put together a discovery and development platform and is now building a rich portfolio of therapeutic candidates that take advantage of the ability of Anellovector therapeutics to overcome pre-existing immunological barriers, target sites of disease with cellular and tissue specificity, and redose patients as required. The company is targeting therapeutic areas including genetic disorders, ophthalmology, oncology, metabolic disorders, hematology, central nervous system disorders, and inflammatory diseases.
Flagship Pioneering is backed by more than $3.3 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 39 transformative companies, including Axcella Health, Evelo Biosciences, Foghorn Therapeutics, Kaleido Biosciences, Moderna, Rubius Therapeutics, Seres Therapeutics and Syros Pharmaceuticals. (Source: Flagship Pioneering Website, 19 December, 2019)