Few areas of genetic research are as exciting as genome editing, and more specifically, the promise of base editing, a pinpoint method for engineering base substitutions without cleaving the DNA double helix backbone. The underlying technology was developed in the lab of Harvard University chemist David Liu, PhD, with research led by two star postdocs, Alexis Komor, PhD, and Nicole Gaudelli, PhD.
Together with friends and colleagues Feng Zhang, PhD, and Keith Joung, MD, Liu co-founded Beam Therapeutics to commercialize base editing. The founding CEO is John Evans. Eighteen months after taking Beam public, Evans is looking at a company market cap of some $5 billion. He describes that journey, and the exciting prospects for base editing, in a great interview on Episode 5 of our video series spotlighting biotech CEOs—Close to the Edge:
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Evans says the potential of base editing is its “one-and-done” approach to precision medicine. Earlier this year, the company published promising results in The CRISPR Journal on a redesigned family of base editors to alter the single base mutated in sickle-cell disease. Meanwhile, Liu’s academic group has published other promising preclinical results on sickle-cell disease and progeria (a premature aging disorder), while also expanding the repertoire of base editing complexes.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Evans discussed Beam’s pipeline and other preclinical programs. He described the improved safety profile of genome editing therapies, and talked about Beam’s multi-faceted approach when it comes to finding the right delivery vehicle. Evans also talked about Beam’s relationship with Prime Medicine, another David Liu-founded entity, which announced its launch shortly after this interview was recorded with a series A/B round of $315 million.