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Start-Up Developing Efficient RNA Process, Raises $12M

Vials and bottles

(National Cancer Institute, Unsplash)

30 Sept. 2022. A company formed earlier this year is commercializing a more efficient process for making synthetic RNA molecules and raising $12 million in seed funds. EnPlusOne Biosciences Inc. in Watertown, Massachusetts is spun-off from labs at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, a research center at Harvard University.

EnPlusOne Biosciences offers a process for synthesizing ribonucleic acid, or RNA, that carries instructions from genetic codes in DNA for producing proteins in cells. Synthetic RNA is used increasingly in therapies, showcased by the recent rapid development and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines based on programmed synthesized messenger RNA. For treatments or vaccines, RNA is produced in short sequences called oligonucleotides, often used in diagnostics, but also serve as building blocks for more complex synthesized RNA chemistry.

As explained last year by EnPlusOne Bio co-founder Daniel Wiegand in a Wyss Institute blog post, current processes for synthesizing RNA oligonucleotides work fine for producing small quantities in the lab or limited clinical use, but are difficult to scale-up for population-wide public health or more complex chemical requirements. Instead of the current phosphorous-based chemical methods, EnPlusOne Bio employs a synthesis process with naturally occurring enzymes to produce RNA molecules. Wiegand says in the Wyss Institute post, “we believe that we can produce oligonucleotides more cheaply at substantially higher purities and commercially relevant scales.”

“A clear vision for effectively delivering RNA to the world.”

EnPlusOne Bio says it can also design synthetic RNA oligonucleotides in longer strands than currently produced, and in novel configurations to meet the needs of industry partners. Plus the company plans to develop a manufacturing facility in the near future. “Our platform,” adds Wiegand in a company statement released through BusinessWire, “represents a new way of addressing this need utilizing next-generation technology for the scaled production of high-quality RNA oligonucleotides. We’ve made significant progress developing this technology, and we have a clear vision for effectively delivering RNA to the world.”

Wiegand designed the EnPlusOne process as a Wyss Institute research scientist in the lab of geneticist and serial entrepreneur George Church, a co-founder of the company with Wiegand, biochemist Jonathan Rittichier, and biotech engineer Dan Ahlstedt. Wiegand is EnPlusOne Bio’s CEO, while Rittichier is chief scientist, Ahlstedt is chief operating officer, and Church is an advisor. “I remember bringing Daniel and Jon together to tackle this challenge,” notes Church, “and how enthusiastic they were working through it. Our lab culture is driven by seeing every bit of basic science for how it might be stretched and recombined to solve a societal problem.”

EnPlusOne Bio was formed earlier this year under Northpond Labs, a joint undertaking of Northpond Ventures, a life science and health technology investor in Cambridge, Mass., that supports commercially feasible technologies being developed at the Wyss Institute. In May 2022, Science & Enterprise reported on SomaCode, a Northpond Labs/Wyss Institute initiative to extend the reach and targeting of cell therapies. Northpond Ventures is leading the seed round for EnPlusOne Bio raising $12 million, joined by Breakout Ventures, Coatue, and angel investors. The company expects to apply the proceeds to further develop its synthetic RNA process.

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