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15 May 2018

Beam Therapeutics lasers in on $87m series A

Beam has emerged out of Harvard University with $87m in series A funding to commercialise gene editing technology, with additional research licensed from Broad Institute and Editas Medicine.

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

Beam Therapeutics, a US-based biotech spinout from Harvard University, emerged out of stealth yesterday with a $87m series A round co-led by Arch Venture Partners, the VC firm spun out of University of Chicago.

F-Prime Capital, an investment subsidiary of financial services conglomerate Fidelity, co-led the round.

Beam Therapeutics is working on precision genetic medicines using base editing, a form of genome editing that enables the precise altering of DNA or RNA base pairs using Crispr technology.

The spinout is focusing on treatments for a range of serious, unspecified diseases. Its approach relies on repairing mutations, adding protective genetic variations or modulating the expression and functioning of disease-causing genes.

Beam has signed three distinct licence agreements. The first covers two base editing platforms based on research by David Liu, professor in Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

The second agreement was inked with Broad Institute, a biomedical and genomic research centre whose partners include Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The deal covers an RNA editing platform called Repair, which enables reversible gene changes.

Repair is based on research led by Feng Zhang, a core institute member at Broad Institute and professor in neuroscience at MIT.

Both of these licences are exclusive for human therapeutic use for a certain amount of time, after which period the licence may be extended to other companies on an individual gene target basis if Beam is not actively developing a treatment in that area.

A third licensing and option agreement has been signed with pharmaceutical firm Editas Medicine for intellectual property initially licensed to Editas by Harvard, Broad and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and for certain Editas technologies.

Editas has received an equity stake in Beam Therapeutics as part of that agreement and is entitled to royalty payments. This third agreement sublicenses research conducted by Liu and by J. Keith Joung, associate chief of pathology for research at MGH.

Beam Therapeutics previously achieved a first $13m series A close in February 2018. At the time, University of California Berkeley also unveiled its own Crispr-focused spinout, Mammoth Biosciences, with an undisclosed amount of funding from Mayfield, NFX, 8VC, AME Cloud Ventures, Wireframe Ventures, Kairos Ventures and Boom Capital.

Harvard University will receive a multi-million-dollar upfront payment as part of its licensing agreement, though terms are confidential.

The initial research in Liu’s laboratory was supported in part by US government agencies Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and National Institutes of Health.

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