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Genome editing summits are generally friendly, nerdy affairs, but for a moment at a Lisbon hotel last June, the conversation at the FASEB genome engineering conference grew tense.

Tessera Therapeutics chief scientist Michael Holmes had just finished presenting a much-anticipated peek at a technology the company had previously said could “revolutionize genetic medicine” and “cure nearly any genetic disease.” It was a rare moment: Tessera had raised around $600 million and passed a $1 billion valuation, but had never published in academic medical journals.

To Nicole Gaudelli, sitting in the audience, parts of the glimpse Holmes offered looked suspiciously familiar. It resembled a technology her former adviser, Harvard and Broad Institute biochemist David Liu, published in 2019 called prime editing. That paper captured headlines around the world because it promised a more precise way to fix genomes. Prime editing was quickly picked up by hundreds of outside labs, and spawned another billion-dollar company called Prime Medicine.

She stood up and raised her hand. “How is that differentiated from Prime Medicine?” she said, according to three people present.

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