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LI biotech Codagenix receives $2M equity investment

Steffen Mueller, chief scientific officer for the start-up

Steffen Mueller, chief scientific officer for the start-up company Codagenix, demonstrates how cells are infected with computer generated viruses at the company's lab at the Long Island High Technology Incubator in Stony Brook on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Codagenix, a biotechnology startup working on commercializing a new flu vaccine-making method, has received a $2 million investment from venture capital firm Topspin Partners of Roslyn Heights.

The funding, to be officially announced Friday, provides the small company with the resources needed to conduct human clinical trials, which are likely to begin sometime in early 2016. "We're going to seek regulatory approval and conduct a trial on healthy volunteers," said J. Robert Coleman, chief operating officer of Codagenix.

The round of planned human trials will be the first of three and will examine the safety of Codagenix's vaccine method and test for efficacy. While typical Phase 1 trials use groups of 20 to 40, Coleman said his company is seeking to recruit as many as 80.

Once started, Phase 1 testing should only take about three months, but the regulatory process leading up to patient recruitment takes time, Coleman said.

The funding announcement comes less than two weeks after the company had received a nearly $100,000 business grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research Program for the development of a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease. It is also working on vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus, dengue fever and pathogenic E. coli.

The funding comes amid an outbreak of bird flu that has led to the killing of millions of egg-producing chickens in the Midwest. Eggs are often used in the production of influenza vaccines. Coleman declined to speculate on how the outbreak would affect his business but said that because his company's vaccines won't use eggs, it has a competitive advantage in "reducing the cost of production materials."

Launched in 2012, Codagenix uses computer algorithms to "deoptimize" the DNA of viruses. The process keeps them alive, making them more efficient at lower doses, while removing the elements that make them most dangerous to patients.

The company currently operates out of Stony Brook's Long Island High Technology Incubator. It will move its five-employee operation to the Start-Up NY tax-free zone at Farmingdale State's Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, Coleman said.

"We look for high-impact technologies and sciences to back," said Steve Winick, managing director of Topspin. "We were impressed."

To date, Codagenix has received $1.9 million in grant and venture capital funding.

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