- In twin announcements Thursday, Ensoma said it will acquire the startup Twelve Bio and revealed $85 million in new financing to advance its ‘in vivo’ cell therapy research.
- The funding round, led by 5AM Ventures and Arix Bioscience, will help Ensoma develop its “Engenious” in vivo cell therapy platform and expand its pipeline of genetic medicines for use in immuno-oncology and “other therapeutic applications.”
- The acquisition of Twelve Bio, meanwhile, gives Ensoma access to the three-year-old startup’s CRISPR-based technology that it claims can more flexibly and precisely edit genes.
Current cell therapies are what is known as “ex vivo,” with a patient’s cells genetically engineered outside of the body. But these treatments, such as CAR-T cell therapies in cancer, require long intensive processes that involve drawing out a patient's cells, genetically modifying them in a lab, then returning them to be reinfused. To bypass this process, many biotech companies have been testing out more convenient ways to re-engineer and redirect the body’s cells.
Some biotechnology companies are looking at “off-the-shelf” therapies, rather than the personalized cell treatments that are now available. Other biotechs are targeting “in vivo” processes, which would involve modifying cells while they’re still in the body.
Ensoma emerged in 2021 with $70 million in funding along with a partnership with the drugmaker Takeda. The company set an amibitious goal of developing off-the-shelf therapies for both common and rare diseases. Thursday’s announcement is a step forward in building the financial and technological resources to get a bit closer toward that aim.
“Ensoma now has the capital, expertise and committed partners necessary to bring our breakthrough medicines to the clinic,” said CEO Emile Nuwaysir in a statement.
Ensoma plans to use Twelve Bio’s technology, which uses an engineered Cas12a enzyme, to better engineer stem cells in vivo via a single infusion, such as by “multiplex” editing.
Mark Chin, a managing director at Arix Bioscience and director of Twelve Bio, will join Ensoma’s board of directors. In addition, Stefano Stella, Twelve Bio’s co-founder and chief scientific officer, will join Ensoma as vice president of gene editing. Ensoma’s scientific advisory board will gain two of Twelve Bio’s members, including co-founder Guillermo Montoya and Shengdar Tsai.
Certain conditions must be met, including approval by the Danish Business Authority, for the acquisition to be completed, Ensoma said.