The second of four features on Senda Biosciences, based on Big4Bio’s interview with CEO Guillaume Pfefer and Chief Platform Officer Stuart Milstein, focuses on the company’s technology platform – designed to harness nature’s codes to program molecules within and to the cell – and its potential to treat a broad range of diseases.
Companies to Watch – Senda Biosciences
by Marie Daghlian
Senda Biosciences’ nanoparticle programming platform aims to solve one of nucleic medicine’s greatest challenges: programming information molecules – such as mRNA, siRNA, and gene editors – to access a broad range of targets.
“Many bright minds have been trying to crack this for decades, but the whole solution may be governed by millions of years of evolution,” says Guillaume Pfefer, Senda’s CEO. “We’re looking to overcome what is a major limitation right now: the issue of getting information molecules to the right cells.”
Over the past three years, Senda has been developing a deep understanding of the components that form the basis of interspecies communication. This information is being used to gain an understanding of the programming language that evolution has provided, so that it can be applied to programming nanoparticles to access new tissues and cells that are typically inaccessible using traditional delivery technologies.
“The foundation of the platform has been to survey a large number of species from across five kingdoms of life,” says Stuart Milstein, chief platform officer at Senda. “We used the knowledge we gained to build our Senda Atlas, which is a rich database of many different molecular components that we are now using in conjunction with a variety of different information molecules, such as mRNAs, to learn how to program nanoparticles comprehensively.”
Part of Senda’s “secret sauce” is utilizing proprietary analytical methods to characterize the molecular composition of natural nanoparticles. Then it uses a combination of empirical experimentation and modeling to help understand which components can be brought together to program nanoparticles for different functions, including tropism to a variety of different tissues.
The programmed nanoparticles can be used to drive additional specific outcomes such as increased potency or the ability to repeat doses. And to then comprehensively program medicines, Senda brings this new “to the cell” technology together with cutting-edge “within the cell” science. The company’s mRNA engine enables programming and synthesis of mRNA with specific properties, such as the therapeutic function they’re looking to drive within the cell. It is the combination of the programmable information molecule and programmable nanoparticle that allows Senda to comprehensively program SendRNA™.
Experimental data is fed back into a data backbone for continuous learning and improvement. “The programming then can feed algorithms that help improve the platform through iterative cycles,” Milstein says.
Pfefer says Senda is an “N-of-1″, harnessing nature for the first time to solve the “to the cell” problem. And although other companies are exploring lipid nanoparticles, the majority have focused on one component of four that make up the nanoparticle delivery system—an ionizable lipid—which is important for packing the mRNA or other nucleic acid and for releasing it among other functions, notes Milstein. But there’s a lot more to a nanoparticle than that one component.
“What’s novel about us is we are allowing for a much richer set of components in nanoparticles than other folks,” Milstein says. “There are companies that are taking various approaches, but the way we are learning from evolution, applying it to programming and using it in the context of modeling it and iterative learning… we don’t really think there’s anybody doing anything that’s similar to what we’re doing.”
Senda says it has profiled and mapped more than 75,000 molecular features in the Senda Atlas, has already programmed and tested more than 1,000 SendaRNAs successfully in preclinical studies, and can go from programming to functional readout for a SendRNA in just one week.
“One of the exciting things about the company is we’ve already demonstrated translation from rodents to non-human primates – and that’s a big leap for an early-stage company like us; already demonstrating that what we’re doing is translating across species,” says Milstein. “I think that really motivates everybody here – knowing that it’s likely that we can take the next step and potentially be successful there as well.”
Senda is not only building a powerful platform, but it also plans to build a broad pipeline. They believe the opportunity for potent and tunable medicines is huge. The company is first focusing on mRNA and peptides, but believes its technology has the potential to use any type of information molecule to target any disease, in any part of the human body.
Pfefer estimates that Senda should be able to get a candidate into human studies within two years. “We are preparing to meet that kind of timeline, but the question is also, how do we maintain breadth? And how deep and how fast do we want to go with the first programs? We are balancing the breadth and depth with the speed with which we want to go into clinical trials,” Pfefer says. “That is why partnering is also key, so we don’t have to do everything ourselves, and make what we believe is a transformative platform available to our many colleagues in the industry that are excited by the same sense of purpose — bringing more medicines to patients, faster.”
And that’s what Senda is all about. “We’re building a platform that we can iterate on rapidly and where the aim is to make therapies available as quickly as possible, because as you get a little deeper and you become familiar with the human suffering that goes along with the diseases that you are trying to address…nothing is more motivating,” says Pfefer. “The fact is simply that the longer it takes, the longer people are suffering, when there’s a potential solution that you could be bringing to them.”
This is part of the Big4Bio Company to Watch program for April 2023: Senda Biosciences
For more information on the series, click here.