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Gene Therapy Company Starts-Up, Gains $200M

Adeno-associated virus

Adeno-associated virus diagram (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab)

18 May 2021. A new company is underway commercializing research on gene therapies for inherited diseases, staked to an initial investment of $200 million. G2 Bio Companies in Philadelphia is commercializing research conducted by labs in the Gene Therapy Program at University of Pennsylvania, headed by James Wilson, the company’s scientific founder.

Wilson’s lab in the Gene Therapy Program at UPenn’s medical school in Philadelphia studies adeno-associated viruses for delivering gene therapies to patients with inherited disorders, but also to carry vaccines and treatments for treating a range of diseases. Adeno-associated viruses are benign, naturally occurring microbes that can infect cells, but do not integrate with the cell’s genome or cause disease, and generate at most a mild immune response. In December 2020, Science & Enterprise reported on a collaboration between Wilson’s lab and biopharmaceutical company Regeneron to study delivery of synthetic antibodies directly to the nose to prevent Covid-19 infections.

G2 Bio plans to focus on gene therapies to treat genetic diseases from Wilson’s and colleagues’ labs at UPenn. “Our mission at the Gene Therapy Program is to discover, translate and greatly accelerate the development and commercialization of life-transformative genetic-based therapeutics,” says Wilson in a G2 Bio statement released through Intrado/Globe Newswire.

Investment goal: businesses with distinctive intellectual property

“The G2 Bio Companies will leverage the Gene Therapy Program’s capabilities and its deep history in advancing the field of genetic therapeutics to reach more patients in need around the world, including those with more common, non-monogenic diseases,” adds Wilson. Non-monogenic diseases result from multiple defective genes and thus are more complex and difficult to treat.

Forming G2 Bio with Wilson is Tachi Yamada, an investor and entrepreneur in the life sciences. Yamada formerly served as chief medical and scientific officer at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, as well as president of the global health program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Among his start-ups are biotechnology companies Phathom Pharmaceuticals and Passage Bio.

G2 Bio is raising $200 million in initial funding from venture investor Temasek in Singapore. Temasek invests in a broad range of business and regions, but among its investment goals are businesses with distinctive intellectual property or other competitive advantages, as well as companies with a strong home base that become regional or global champions. Among Temasek’s investments are several companies in the life sciences and agribusiness.

Yamada notes, “Temasek’s history of impactful investments in life sciences and health care globally, and unique presence in Asia, ensures they will be a valued partner and long-term collaborator for the G2 Bio Companies.”

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