With $43 million in Series A venture financing, five pioneers in genome editing technology said today they launched a company to translate their research into a new class of therapeutics designed to enable precise and corrective molecular modification to treat underlying causes of diseases at the genetic level.
Editas Medicine will draw on the work of its five founders in developing the gene editing methods of CRISPR (clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9); and transcription activator-like effector nucleases, or TALENs:
- Feng Zhang, Ph.D., core member of the Broad Institute, investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and joint assistant professor in the Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering at MIT.
- George Church, Ph.D., founding core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Robert Winthrop professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School.
- Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
- Keith Joung, M.D., Ph.D., associate chief of pathology for research and associate pathologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, a pioneer in the development and translation of genome editing technologies.
- David Liu, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University, a renowned protein evolution and engineering biologist.
CRISPR/Cas9 acts through a mechanism in which the Cas9 protein binds to specific RNA molecules. The RNA molecules then guide the Cas9 complex to the exact location in the genome that requires repair. CRISPR/Cas9 uniquely enables highly efficient knockout, knockdown, or selective editing of defective genes in the context of their natural promoters, unlocking the ability to treat the root cause of a broad range of diseases.
Editas’ founders reason that early published research on CRISPR/Cas9, plus a growing body of work on TALENs, suggests that both constitute novel gene editing methods capable of overcoming challenges associated with previous technologies.
“Editas is optimizing and refining existing genome editing technology to create a versatile platform for the development of potential human therapeutics,” Dr. Zhang said in a statement.
The $43 million financing round was led by $43 million Series A financing led by Flagship Ventures, Polaris Partners, and Third Rock Ventures, with participation from Partners Innovation Fund.
Kevin Bitterman, Ph.D., a principal with Polaris, will serve as Editas’ interim president. Rounding out the leadership team are Alexandra Glucksmann, Ph.D., interim COO and former founding employee and SVP of research and development at Cerulean Pharma, and Lou Tartaglia, Ph.D., interim CSO and partner with Third Rock.
Members of Editas’ board of directors include Alexis Borisy, another partner with Third Rock,Douglas Cole, M.D., general partner with Flagship, and Terry McGuire, co-founder and general partner of Polaris.