Base Editing Start-up Beams with US$180 Million IPO
By Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.
After increasing the number of shares originally offered from 6.3 million to 10.6 million, Beam Therapeutics has raised $180 million in its initial public offering. Each share was eventually priced at a value of $17, the higher end of the $15 to $17 range originally proposed. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech intends to employ base editing technology to develop precision genetic medicines for a wide array of diseases including sickle cell disease, β thalassemia, liver disease, cancer, and CNS disorders.
Base Editing Technology
CRISPR gene-editing technology yields near precise modifications of the DNA, but has been guilty of unintended off-target mutations. Besides, CRISPR and other editing technologies such as TALEN and ZFN create double-stranded breaks (DSBs) in the genome and rely on the host’s machinery for repair. Base editing, on the other hand, is much safer, since it edits a single base in a gene without DSBs. “If existing gene-editing approaches are ‘scissors’ for the genome, our base editors are ‘pencils,’ erasing and rewriting one letter in the gene” the company had mentioned in their registration statement filed last September with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Base editing comprises of two components; 1) A modified Cas9 that finds the target site using guide RNA and only cuts one strand 2) A deaminase enzyme that can chemically convert C to T, T to C, A to G and G to A. This technology is perfectly suitable for correcting genetic abnormalities caused by single point mutations.
An Investor Favorite
Cofounded by David Liu, Keith Joung, and Feng Zhang, the company was launched with a Series A funding of $87 million in May 2018, led by F-Prime Capital Partners and ARCH Venture Partners, currently the major stakeholders of the firm. Last March, it secured a handsome $135 million series B financing to further boost its pipeline. Apart from the ones mentioned above, Beam has other investors, including Eight Roads Ventures, Omega Funds, Redmile Group, LLC, Cormorant Asset Management, GV, Altitude Life Science Ventures, and Osage University Partners.
The company has granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase an additional 1.6 million shares at the IPO price. BEAM’s stock begins trading today (Feb 6, 2020) on The Nasdaq Global Select Market.
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