SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Shape Therapeutics, Inc. (ShapeTx), a development-stage biotechnology company leading the field of RNA-editing gene therapy, announces $35.5M in Series A financing, led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with additional participation from CureDuchenne Ventures. The new capital will enable the company to extend its growing portfolio of intellectual property, recruit and hire top scientific talent and advance its groundbreaking RNA and protein targeting platforms focused on curing human diseases.
These platforms include the proprietary ShapeTx RNAfix™ technology that enables direct in vivo targeting and modification of RNA by leveraging proteins such as Adenosine Deaminases Acting on RNA (ADARs), suppressor tRNAs, and engineered adeno-associated viruses (AAVs). The RNAfix™ platform differentiates from other contemporary genome engineering technologies by engaging natural human cellular machinery to modify RNA.
ShapeTx was founded on the work of Dr. Prashant Mali, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at UCSD, who during his postdoctoral fellowship in the George Church laboratory at Harvard Medical School pioneered the use of CRISPR in human cells. ShapeTx RNAfix™ platform is built upon his lab’s most recent work demonstrating in vivo use of guide RNAs to recruit native ADARs and to fix mutations in multiple rare genetic disease mouse models.
“Our technology can correct mutations or target specific genes in neurodegenerative, oncology, metabolic and rare genetic disorders by hijacking naturally occurring proteins such as ADARs present in our cells using just a short guide RNA. Our proprietary new platform avoids the risk of in vivo immunogenicity and permanent off-target damages commonly associated with CRISPR-based approaches,” explained Francois Vigneault, Ph.D., President and CEO, who was previously VP of Research at Juno Therapeutics after a successful co-acquisition of AbVitro, Inc. by Juno and Celgene.
Ed Mathers, Partner at NEA and Board member at ShapeTx, said, “One rarely comes across a proprietary technology platform with such transformative potential led by a focused and data-driven scientific group with a successful track record in pre-clinical and clinical development. The team has shown us an exciting demonstration of the technology in multiple in vivo models, alongside one of the strongest IP estates we have seen in the field. NEA looks forward to backing the company in future rounds as they move the technology toward the clinic.”
“While the ShapeTx platform will be enabling for many other genetic diseases, Dr. Mali’s in vivo proof of concept in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy was quite exciting and could potentially lead to a cure for families suffering from such a debilitating disorder,” said Debra Miller, CEO and Founder of CureDuchenne and CureDuchenne Ventures.
The ShapeTx Series A financing coincides with the formation of a world-class Scientific Advisory Board comprised of foremost global experts in genomics, bioengineering, and gene editing, including George Church Ph.D., James Collins Ph.D., and Don Cleveland Ph.D. The scientific advisory board will serve as strategic advisors and ensure that the research and development of its platforms meet the highest standards of scientific merit.
“Prashant and Francois are some of the most innovative and brilliant individuals that have come through my lab over the years, and it will be impressive to see these two disrupt the field of gene therapy with this paradigm-shifting technology,” said Dr. George Church, Professor in Genetics at Harvard Medical School and member of the ShapeTx Scientific Advisory board.
Shape Therapeutics’ Scientific Advisory Board Members:
George Church, Ph.D.
George Church Ph.D., world-famous geneticist, molecular engineer, and chemist. He developed the methods used for the first genome sequence & million-fold cost reductions since, as well as pioneered many of the CRISPR advances in genome editing. He is currently a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Technology Center and Director of the National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence in Genomic Science. He has received numerous awards, including the 2011 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science from the Franklin Institute and election to the National Academy of Sciences and Engineering.
James Collins, Ph.D.
James Collins Ph.D., is one of the pioneers of the field of synthetic biology and has made multiple synthetic biology and bioengineering breakthroughs in biotechnology and biomedicine. He serves as the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, as well as a member of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology Faculty, and core member of the Wyss Institute. His many awards include a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur “Genius Award,” a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award. Jim is also an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, as well as a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.
Don Cleveland Ph.D.
Don Cleveland Ph.D. is an award-winning inventor and pioneer in the field of Antisense Oligonucleotide (ASO) and their uses in gene therapy. He was recently awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work on the pathogenesis of disease and ASO-mediated treatment approaches in ALS and Huntington’s disease. Don is currently Professor of Medicine and Department Chair of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Neurosciences at the University of California at San Diego, and Head, Laboratory for Cell Biology at the San Diego branch of Ludwig Cancer Research. He has made pioneering discoveries on the mechanisms of chromosome movement and cell-cycle control during normal cellular division, as well as the principles of neuronal cell development and the relationship to defects that contribute to inherited neurodegenerative disease.
About Shape Therapeutics, Inc.
Shape Therapeutics, Inc. is creating the world’s leading RNA and protein targeting platforms focused on the cure of human diseases. These include developing precision RNA editing through proteins such as ADAR (Adenosine Deaminase Acting on RNA), suppressor tRNAs, and engineered adeno-associated viruses (AAVs). The RNAfix™ technology allows for the editing of RNA using natural human cellular machinery, limiting the risk associated with immunogenicity, cellular toxicity, or off-target DNA editing. The team’s founders include Prashant Mali, Ph.D., Francois Vigneault, Ph.D., and John Suliman. ShapeTx is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, with a satellite site opening in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For additional information, visit www.ShapeTx.com.
New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA) is a global venture capital firm focused on helping entrepreneurs build transformational businesses across multiple stages, sectors, and geographies. With more than $20 billion in cumulative committed capital since the firm’s founding in 1978, NEA invests in technology and healthcare companies at all stages in a company’s lifecycle, from seed stage through IPO. The firm’s long track record of successful investing includes more than 225 portfolio company IPOs and more than 375 acquisitions. For additional information, visit www.nea.com.
About CureDuchenne Ventures
CureDuchenne Ventures supports Duchenne research by using philanthropic donations to encourage the development of new Duchenne drugs. Through an impact financing model, we can provide equity or royalty financing to biotech and pharmaceutical companies. CureDuchenne’s portfolio includes 16 wide-ranging projects with several successful exits. Investments from CureDuchenne Ventures have successfully de-risked and leveraged more than $2.3 billion in follow-on financing from venture capital, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies to fund emerging projects to find treatments for Duchenne. For additional information, visit https://www.cureduchenne.org/ventures/.
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