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Precision Gene-Editing Biotech Gains $200M in New Funds

David Liu

David Liu (Harvard University)

13 July 2021. A biotechnology company says it discovers therapies with the gene-editing technique Crispr to carry out a wider range of precise genomic corrections. Prime Medicine, a one year-old enterprise in Cambridge, Massachusetts spun off from the Broad Institute, a research center affiliated with Harvard University and MIT, is raising $200 million in its second venture funding round, for a total $315 million since starting up.

Prime Medicine is based on research by the Broad Institute lab of biochemistry professor David Liu that studies genomic editing at a finer level of granularity than the original Crispr technology. As reported in Science & Enterprise in May 2018, Liu is scientific founder of Beam Therapeutics, a company creating treatments that edit DNA errors called point mutations, where a single base-pair is replaced by another base-pair.  Humans have about 3 billion base pairs of nucleic acids — adenine (A) with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) with guanine (G) — with the sequence of base pairs making up a person’s DNA or genetic code. Point mutations account for at least half of DNA errors associated with a range of diseases.

Prime Medicine says it’s extending base-pair editing with Crispr to cover more than 90 percent of known disease-causing mutations. The company says its technology searches for the exact mutation in the genome, cuts one of the two DNA strands, edits out the disease-causing mutation, replaces the mutation with the corrected sequence, and copies the correction to the second DNA strand. This technology, says Prime Medicine, can be applied to point mutations needing base-pair conversions or edits, as well as adding or removing base pairs, where needed.

Emerging from stealth mode

Liu and Andrew Anzalone, a postdoctoral researcher at the time, describe the technology in the journal Nature in October 2019. Anzalone, also a scientific founder of the company, now leads Prime Medicine’s technology platform development. Prime Medicine licenses the technology from the Broad Institute, and applies it to discover treatments for eye, liver, blood stem cell, and neuro-muscular disorders. The company expects to employ more than 100 people full time by the end of 2021.

Prime Medicine started up largely in stealth mode last year, formed by venture capital investor ARCH Venture Partners. Prime raised $115 million in its first funding round led by ARCH Venture Partners, as well as F-Prime Capital, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and Newpath Partners. The new venture round adds $200 million to the company from first round funders, as well as Casdin Capital, Cormorant Asset Management, Moore Strategic Ventures, Public Sector Pension Investment Board, Redmile Group, and Samsara BioCapital. Also taking part in the second round are funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates and a number of additional, unnamed life sciences investment funds.

“Prime editing is a transformative technology,” says Prime Medicine CEO Keith Gottesdiener in a company statement, “that we believe will make a significant impact by addressing the fundamental causes of genetic disease.” Gottesdiener adds, “We are operating from a position of financial strength, and look forward to further developing the technology and progressing our preclinical programs toward the clinic, with the hope that they may cure or halt the progression of genetic diseases for patients.”

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