CODA Biotherapeutics Launches with $19 Million to Tackle Neuropathic Pain


CODA Biotherapeutics launched in South San Francisco with a $19 million Series A financing. Lead investors were MPM Capital and Versant Ventures. They were joined by Astellas Venture Management and Novartis.

CODA will focus on neurological diseases, with a particular interest in chronic neuropathic pain. The company has a chemogenetic platform that it hopes to use to control neuron activity. This chemogenetic platform offers a type of gene therapy to express a tunable “switch” protein, which can be turned off or on in a dose-dependent manner.

“Tremendous potential exists in CODA’s platform to provide relief to the millions of people living with intractable diseases like chronic neuropathic pain through the use of innovative techniques in gene therapy,” said CODA board member Mitchell Finer, an executive partner at MPM Capital and CODA’s co-founder and initial chief executive officer, in a statement. “The board and I look forward to working with Mike [Narachi] and his stellar team to discover and produce transformative therapies that will help patients and physicians who treat them.”

More than 19 million people in the U.S. live with chronic neuropathic pain. Current treatments include opioids, anticonvulsants, tricyclic anti-depressants and channel inhibitors, but these aren’t terribly effective and have significant side effects and the possibility for addiction. Other approaches include nerve stimulation therapies and surgery that destroys pathological neurons.

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The company will work to develop engineered neurotransmitter receptors that are solely activated by orally bioavailable drugs that control the activity of hyperexcitable neurons that are associated with chronic neuropathic pain. The company says, “The gene encoding the receptor is delivered to dysfunctional neurons by proprietary viral vectors that are optimized for robust and targeted gene transfer. Standard neurosurgical procedures are used to administer these viral vectors directly to the neurons to be controlled. Once expressed, the engineered receptor can be activated by the drug to modulate neuronal activity. This enables the selective, tunable and reversible regulation of the receptor — and hence cellular activity — based on the dosing regimen of the drug.”

The company’s website lists a number of types of chronic neuropathic pain it believes it will be able to treat, including avulsion and nerve injury, cancer pain, diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritis, phantom limb pain, postherpetic neuralgia, spinal cord injury and others.

As part of the financing, Michael Narachi will join CODA as president, chief executive officer and serve on the company’s board of directors. Prior to joining CODA, Narachi was chief executive officer and director at Orexigen Therapeutics. Before that, he was at Amgen for more than 20 years where he held leadership positions in preclinical and clinical development, as well as clinical operations in the U.K., Japan, and the U.S. He is currently a board member for Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical and for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

“CODA’s novel gene therapy platform holds great promise to overcome limitations faced by existing approaches,” Narachi said in a statement. “I look forward to partnering with this outstanding group of investors, board and impressive team with world-class scientific and corporate expertise to advance what we believe will be a broadly applicable new platform that could be used to more effectively treat many diseases, including severe neurological disorders.”

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