Months after its dozen scientists began working in secret on what’s been called “the most clever CRISPR gadget” so far, the latest company hoping to deploy genome-editing to cure diseases came out of stealth mode on Monday.
Beam Therapeutics, which registered as a corporation in Massachusetts in March and has been doing experiments since last year, is debuting as CRISPR companies are popping up like dandelions, but right out of the gate Beam stands out in a crowded field. Its three founders are among the world’s leading CRISPR’ers, Editas Medicine (EDIT) has an equity stake, and in addition to the $13 million it’s raised (from Arch Venture Partners and F-Prime Capital Partners), it has commitments for another $85 million.
The name “Beam”? BE stands for base editing, the CRISPR technology it aims to turn into therapies, said co-founder David Liu of Harvard, who invented base editing in 2016. “Beam” evokes the precision of a laser beam, he said, and co-founder Dr. J. Keith Joung of Massachusetts General Hospital pointed out that the “AM” could mean “and more,” referring to other CRISPR discoveries they hope to harness. The third co-founder is Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute, one of the first scientists to get CRISPR to edit genes in mammalian cells.