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Codagenix in vaccine tech licensing deal with Stony Brook

Stony Brook University and Codagenix researchers in the

Stony Brook University and Codagenix researchers in the Stony Brook laboratory of Dr. Eckard Wimmer, center. From left, Steven Skiena, Rob Coleman, Steffen Mueller and Charles Stauft, who holds a Zika virus assay. Photo Credit: Stony Brook University

A Farmingdale-based startup has secured exclusive rights to a technology developed at Stony Brook University that could spur the creation of new vaccines for influenza, Zika and other diseases, officials said Wednesday.

Codagenix Inc. has signed a 20-year licensing agreement with the university for use of a software algorithm that weakens a virus by changing its DNA. The weakened virus is then used to make a vaccine that produces a stronger immune system response than that caused by other vaccines.

The algorithm was developed in the Stony Brook laboratory of Eckard Wimmer, a microbiology professor. He and fellow researchers Steffen Mueller and J. Robert Coleman then established Codagenix in 2012 to commercialize the technology.

“The advantage to our strategy and the technology behind it is that we can design virus vaccine candidates quickly,” Wimmer said.

Stony Brook professors Bruce Futcher and Steven Skiena also worked on the algorithm.

Codagenix chief operating officer Coleman said the licensing agreement “provides us with a competitive advantage to prevent others from using the approach.”

He also said the agreement allows Codagenix to take on partners to develop additional vaccines and to raise more funds from investors.

“Without the license no one would invest because there is no protection against competition and copycats,” Coleman said. “An exclusive license is a must if a company wants to secure investors or large pharmaceutical partners as we do.”

Codagenix has seven employees and has secured more than $6 million in federal research grants and venture capital.

The licensing agreement stipulates that Codagenix pay Stony Brook, via the Research Foundation for the State University of New York, a yearly fee plus payments when objectives are met, and royalties from vaccine sales. The amounts were not disclosed Wednesday.

The agreement is the 16th to be completed by the university so far this year. Eleven licensing agreements were completed last year, records show.

Stony Brook has received royalty payments totaling $8.6 million so far this year and $13.2 million in 2015. The revenue is a key element in the university’s annual budget.

Stony Brook president, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., said the licensing agreement would yield benefits to medicine, the university’s finances and the economy.

“Finding new and better ways to protect against infectious diseases is extremely important in the 21st century,” he said. “This collaboration with Codagenix is groundbreaking science that elevates approaches to developing new vaccines.”

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, the surname of Stony Brook University professor Steven Skiena was misspelled due to incorrect information from the university.

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