Beam Therapeutics in-licenses ‘efficient’ single-letter genome editing tech

Beam formed the agreement with Prime Medicine, which was founded by one of its own co-founders based on research at The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

gene testing, DNA, genomics

A company working on a form of gene-editing technology that would allow editing at the single-letter level has formed a licensing deal with another company started by one of its own founders.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beam Therapeutics said it had entered into a license and collaboration agreement with Prime Medicine, recently formed by Beam cofounder David Liu, based on his research at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Beam filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in September for a $100 million initial public offering.

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A paper published in Nature by Liu and his team at Broad earlier this month described prime editing as, “a versatile and precise genome editing method that directly writes new genetic information into a specified DNA site using a catalytically impaired Cas9 fused to an engineered reverse transcriptase, programmed with a prime editing guide RNA (pegRNA) that both specifies the target site and encodes the desired edit.” According to the paper, the researchers were able to correct the primary genetic causes of sickle cell disease and Tay-Sachs disease in human cells efficiently and without creating too many unwanted effects.

“Part of Beam’s strategy is to continue to access emerging technologies in gene editing and delivery, while finding new ways to create meaningful options for patients,” Beam CEO John Evans in a statement. “Our collaboration with, and contribution to the formation of, Prime Medicine is a great example of that approach, allowing us to incorporate prime editing into the Beam platform. This partnership enables both companies to advance the technology in distinct spaces, with Beam focusing on the kinds of edits that are most similar to our base editing technology.”

The agreement gives Beam the exclusive right to develop prime editing for creating or correcting any single-base transition mutation, as well as for treating sickle cell disease. Transition mutations are the largest class of disease-associated genetic mutations and are potentially treatable with base editing, according to the company.

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