CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Flagship Pioneering, a unique life sciences innovation enterprise, today announced the launch of Ring Therapeutics, an early-stage biotechnology company 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.
A Powerful and Intrinsic Biology
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. 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. 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.
"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.
Anellovector™ Platform: A Pioneering Platform
Ring Therapeutics was founded by Flagship Pioneering in 2017 when the firm's entrepreneurial 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 entrepreneurial 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.
"We believe that Anellovector therapeutics represent the future of DNA medicines," said Avak Kahvejian, Ph.D., partner at Flagship Pioneering and founding CEO of Ring Therapeutics. "The underlying biology of the commensal virome, its diversity, and the fact that it has co-evolved with us over millennia, gives us a revolutionary new insight from which we can develop safe and efficacious medicines using our proprietary platform."
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 (i) overcome pre-existing immunological barriers, (ii) target sites of disease with cellular and tissue specificity, and (iii) 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.
Rahul Singhvi, Sc.D., operating partner at Flagship Pioneering, has been appointed as president of Ring Therapeutics. Until recently, Dr. Singhvi was the chief operating officer of Takeda's Global Vaccine Business Unit where he led a 300-person organization. Prior to Takeda, he was president and CEO of Novavax, Inc.(NVAX), a Nasdaq-listed clinical stage vaccine company. Dr. Singhvi began his professional career at Merck & Co., where he held several positions in R&D and manufacturing. He received his master's and doctorate degrees in chemical engineering from MIT and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
"I am excited to lead Ring Therapeutics to unleash the potential of its Anellovector technology," Dr. Singhvi said. "Anellovectors are the first real alternative to AAV-based vectors and have the potential to substantially expand the patient population that can benefit from the promising field of DNA medicines."
Roger J. Hajjar, M.D., has been appointed as the head of R&D at Ring Therapeutics. Dr. Hajjar is an internationally renowned scientific leader in the field of cardiac gene therapy, having led first-in-human gene therapy trials in patients with heart failure. Until earlier this year, he was the director of the Cardiovascular Research Center, and the Arthur & Janet C. Ross Professor of Medicine, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. He completed his training in cardiology and heart failure/cardiac transplantation as well as research fellowships at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has authored over 500 peer-reviewed publications and has received numerous awards for his achievements in the field of cardiovascular medicine.
"The Anellovector platform brings a totally novel therapeutic perspective to the field of DNA medicine. With their powerful biological characteristics and vast diversity, Anellovectors have the promise of addressing the unmet needs of many devastating diseases," Dr. Hajjar said.
About Ring Therapeutics
Founded by Flagship Pioneering in 2017, Ring is driving a new paradigm in gene therapy and nucleic acid medicines by harnessing the human commensal virome. The company has developed a unique combination of expertise across virology, genomic epidemiology, structural and cell biology. In just two years, Ring has already identified thousands of anelloviruses, and has created Anellovectors – engineered vectors consisting of single-stranded DNA rings that, once administered, will remain as episomes in the nucleus. Ring is now pursuing a clinical development strategy for advancing several applications of Anellovectors to therapeutics programs.
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 over $90 billion in aggregate value. To date, Flagship has deployed over $2.4 billion in capital toward the founding and growth of its pioneering companies alongside more than $19 billion of follow-on investments from other institutions.