There’s a new way to edit genes, and companies want to use it to treat disease.
Editas Medicine, a company aimed at providing technologies that enable scientists to tweak our genes, just raised $US120 million to continue studying a novel new technology that could make this far easier.
Already, scientists have used the tool to essentially repair defective DNA in mice — curing them of genetic disorders. In April, Chinese researchers working with non-viable human embryos (those that would never end up turning into people) used it to try to tweak a gene that would normally have caused a rare blood disorder.
Editas, a startup based in Cambridge and founded in November 2013, wants to eventually use the technology to treat disease by coming up with therapies that can modify faulty disease-causing genes. For example, researchers could use the technology to replace a disease-causing mutated gene with a healthy one.
It started with $US43 million when it was founded. Most recently the startup inked a deal with Juno Therapeutics, a startup focused on cell therapies for cancer back in May, worth $US25 million upfront plus $US22 million in research support, and up to $US230 million if any treatments come up.
The main financial company in this round is a group called bng0, which Forbes reports is backed by Bill Gates and Boris Nikolic, Gates’ former scientific advisor. Nikolic, who led the funding round, will join the Editas board of directors.
“They all appreciate the vast potential of this science,” says Katrine Bosley, the chief executive of Editas told Forbes. “The heart of the conversation we had with everybody is how you translate this very exciting but young science into treatments, into therapies.”
Editas told Forbes this latest round of funding will be enough to keep the company running for at least three years.
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