Beam Therapeutics raises $180M in IPO

The company was founded to develop base editing, a form of gene editing that alters genes at the single-letter level rather than using the “cutting” technique typical of CRISPR/Cas9. Beam had filed to go public in September, aiming at raising $100 million.

A company developing means to edit genes at the single-letter level has raised nearly $200 million in its initial public offering.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beam Therapeutics said Wednesday evening that it had priced its IPO at $180 million, or $17 per share. The company began trading Thursday on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol BEAM.

The company had filed to go public in September, aiming at a $100 million IPO. J.P. Morgan, Jeffereies and Barclays acted as joint book runners.

Its last major financing before the IPO was a Series B funding round that it raised in March worth $135 million. The company launched with an $87 million Series A round in May 2018 after operating in stealth mode for a year.

Beam’s work focuses on “base editing,” a technology that enables editing of the genome letter by letter, as opposed to the “cutting” technique usually involved in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. Each letter of the genome corresponds with a specific nucleobase: A for adenine, G for guanine, T for thymine and C for cytosine. In other words, base editing would enable changing C to T, G to A and so forth. The company has a licensing agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University’s Broad Institute for co-founder and CRISPR/Cas9 pioneer Feng Zhang’s RNA base-editing technology.

It’s most recent presentation of data was in April 2019, when it showed preclinical data from its base editing platform at the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy’s annual meeting in Washington. For the study, Beam used the base editor BE4 for multiplex base editing of engineered CAR-T cells, showing the ability to knock out expression of three cell surface targets – TRAC, B2M and PD-1 – in 95%, 95% and 88% of cells, respectively. That technique, the company said, may be able to create CAR-T cells with improved therapeutic properties.

Gene editing is a key technology used for the creation of CAR-T cells derived from donors rather than from patients’ own T cells, also known as allogeneic or “off-the-shelf” CAR-Ts, with both CRISPR/Cas9 and TALEN gene-editing technology being used. Without such modifications, off-the-shelf CAR-T cells would be rejected by the body.

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