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Genome Editing Biotech Gains $70M in Venture Funds

Cas9 protein editing a gene

Artist depiction of Cas9 protein editing a gene (Jennifer Doudna, University of California – Berkeley)

1 September 2015. Intellia Therapeutics, a developer of therapies that edit human genomes to fix inherited disorders, raised $70 million in its second round of venture financing. OrbiMed HealthCare Fund Management led the funding round for the Cambridge, Massachusetts enterprise, with new and current investors taking part.

Intellia Therapeutics, founded in November 2014, is a spin-off from Caribou Biosciences, an early-stage life sciences company, that develops and commercializes CRISPR-Cas9 therapies. CRISPR, short for clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is adapted from a natural process used by bacteria to protect against attack by viruses, where a protein that deactivates or replaces genes binds to targeted RNA molecules generated by the genome. The RNA molecules then guide the editing protein, known as CRISPR-associated protein 9 or Cas9, to specific genes needing changes.

The company is harnessing CRISPR to engineer chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, immune-system cells that attract antigens producing antibodies, cultured and grown in the body, then infused back into patients to attack disease-causing cells. In addition, Intellia is working with hematopoietic or blood-forming stem cells, which they plan as well to culture and grow in the lab for transplant in patients.

OrbiMed HealthCare Fund Management, a life sciences and health care investment company in New York, led the new financing round. Participants in the funding include Intellia’s founding investor Atlas Venture and the pharmaceutical company Novartis. In January 2015, a reported in Science & Enterprise, Novartis licensed CRISPR-Cas9 technologies from Intellia and Caribou Biosciences, which included Novartis taking an equity stake in Intellia.

Also taking part in the financing were new investors Fidelity Management and Research Company, Janus Capital Management, Foresite Capital, Sectoral Asset Management, and EcoR1 Capital as well as other unnamed mutual fund and health care investors. Intellia says it plans to use the proceeds of the round to advance its pipeline, expand its gene-editing platforms, engage in new alliances, and expand its staff.

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