NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Beam Therapeutics announced today that it has launched with $87 million in Series A funding to develop precision genetic medicines that make edits to individual base pairs in the genome.
The funding round was led by F-Prime Capital Partners and ARCH Venture Partners.
The company — which was cofounded by CRISPR experts David Liu, Feng Zhang, and Keith Joung —has licensed technology from Harvard, the Broad Institute, MIT, and Editas Medicine across multiple base editing platforms. Beam's research will focus on multiple DNA base editor platforms developed in Liu's lab and on the RNA base editor platform developed by Zhang and his colleagues.
Beam said it plans to use these technologies to develop a broad pipeline of precision therapies that can repair disease-causing point mutations, generate protective genetic variations, or modulate the expression or function of disease-causing genes.
"Base editors are capable of making single-base changes with high efficiency and unprecedented control," Beam CEO John Evans said in a statement. "Beam has assembled the key technologies in base editing and is dedicated to establishing base editors as a new therapeutic option for patients with serious diseases."
Beam's first license agreement is with Harvard, covering Liu's C base editor, which features Cas9 linked to a cytidine deaminase to deliver programmable C-to-T or G-to-A edits in DNA. The second is the A base editor, which uses Cas9 linked to an evolved form of adenosine deaminase capable of editing DNA to deliver programmable A-to-G or T-to-C edits.
In its agreement with the Broad, Beam has acquired RNA base editing technology from Zhang's lab, including the RNA editor platform REPAIR, which uses Cas13 linked to an adenosine deaminase to deliver single base A-to-G editing of RNA transcripts.
Both licenses provide an initial period of exclusivity for human therapeutic use, after which the parties may agree to extend a license to others on an individual gene target basis, if the technology is not being actively developed for that target.
Beam has also signed a licensing and option agreement with Editas for exclusive rights to certain intellectual property licensed to Editas by Harvard, the Broad, and Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as to certain Editas technologies. Under the terms of this agreement, Beam has received an exclusive sublicense to patent filings by Harvard for base editing technologies developed in the Liu Lab and patent filings by MGH for CRISPR technology developed in the Joung Lab, as well as an exclusive option for future sublicensing of additional Cas9 patent families and Cpf1 patent families in the field of base editing. In return, Editas has received an equity stake in Beam and will be eligible for royalties on medicines utilizing the related intellectual property and technologies.