- Gene editing startup Homology Medicines launched Monday with $43.5 million in venture financing, aiming to develop treatments for rare diseases using a new approach to modify human DNA.
- Founded through a seed investment from 5AM Ventures, the new biotech will be led by a team of former Shire executives including CEO Arthur Tzianabos.
- Homology will work to build out a "fundamentally new approach" to gene editing which relies on homologous recombination, a naturally occurring process for repairing and swapping DNA sequences between cells.
Gene editing has attracted enormous amounts of attention and money as a potentially breakthrough way to cure a wide range of genetic diseases. A method known as CRISPR-Cas9 has so far been the most promising and several companies are already working to develop human treatments based on the technology.
But Homology believes its approach may represent a more efficient way to conduct gene editing. Through homologous recombination, human cells can repair damage to DNA by swapping a sequence from one chromosome to another. Homology plans to rely on this process to edit genetic mutations in vivo. The company acquired an exclusive license to this technology from research done by Saswati Chatterjee, a member of the Beckman Research Institute in California.
"The company has an aggressive development plan and a significant opportunity to leapfrog current strategies in gene therapy and editing as it builds an expansive and high-value clinical pipeline," said Kush Parmar, managing partner at 5AM Ventures and a Homology board member.
While the company clearly has high hopes for the technology's potential, none of the work has been published yet, according to Xconomy. Homology will need to develop its technology further to establish efficacy and bring it to the point of initiating human clinical trials.
Meanwhile, Editas Medicine, CRISPR Therapeutics, and Intellia Therapeutics are hard at work trying to develop gene editing treatments using CRISP-Cas9.
The Series A financing was co-led by 5AM and ARCH Venture Partners, and included additional investments from Temasek, Deerfield Management, and ARCH Overage Fund.