NEW YORK – Epigenetic editing startup Chroma Medicine launched on Wednesday with $125 million in seed and Series A financing.
Atlas Venture and Newpath Partners invested in the seed financing round, with participation from Sofinnova Partners. The Series A was led by Cormorant Asset Management, with participation by Casdin Capital, Janus Henderson Investors, Omega Funds, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, and Wellington Management, as well as all seed investors.
The company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said it will use the financing to support the continued development of its epigenetic editing platform and to advance its pipeline of targeted therapeutics. Chroma is building on epigenetic editing technologies developed by its scientific founders Luke Gilbert, Keith Joung, David Liu, Angelo Lombardo, Luigi Naldini, and Jonathan Weissman.
In April, Gilbert, Weissman, and their colleagues described a novel method called CRISPRoff in Cell that would create reversible edits to methylation patterns. It's essentially a programmable epigenome editor consisting of a single dead Cas9 fusion protein that establishes DNA methylation and repressive histone modifications. CRISPRoff's transient expression initiates highly specific repression of genes and DNA methylation that's maintained through cell division and differentiation of stem cells to neurons, the researchers explained. In their experiments, they found that the epigenome editing was highly specific, with minimal off-target editing.
"If you want to fix a pathogenic mutation, then CRISPR is really enabling. But we felt that for many applications, you may not want to permanently mutate the genome," Gilbert said at the time, explaining the method's genesis. "So, we were searching for ways to turn gene expression off or on, without manipulating the sequence of the genome and just manipulating the transcripts that are produced by a cell."
Chroma said its modular epigenetic editors can be programmed to durably turn genes on or off, or alter the expression of several genes at once. This approach enables the company to silence or activate one or several genes in a single platform.
"Epigenetic editing is the next frontier in genomic medicine with the potential to transform the treatment of genetically driven diseases," Chroma CEO Catherine Stehman-Breen said in a statement. "By harnessing nature's innate mechanism to modulate gene expression, we can durably and precisely control gene expression without fundamentally changing or cutting the underlying DNA sequence."
The company said it has already formed partnerships with several academic institutions. It has recently acquired Milan, Italy-based Epsilen Bio, adding complementary capabilities through a partnership with the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy. The company has also formed collaborations with Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco.