Tessera Raises $230M to Develop ‘Gene Writing’ into Novel Genetic Therapy

by Sahana Shankar
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Tessera Therapeutics, a Boston-based life science startup raised $230M in Series B financing. Incubated at Flagship Labs since 2018, Tessera debuted in 2020 with a $50M investment to innovate products in genetic medicine. At the J.P Morgan Healthcare Conference, Tessera announced its procurement of a second round of funding from Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, Altitude Life Science Ventures and SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with participation from Qatar Investment Authority and others.

In 2020, Tessera launched Gene Writing– a novel technology to treat genetic disorders by editing the genome in somatic cells. The application uses ‘gene writers’ which are based on mobile gene elements known as transposons and retrotransposons. Explaining the technology, Tessera’s co-founder Geoffrey von Maltzahn said “You can think about it more like a typewriter or a word processing technology for writing in nature.” Conventional gene therapy methods work more like scissors, by snipping off the wrong code or silencing it. “The vast majority of therapeutic opportunity requires you not just to turn a gene off, but to write therapeutics messages into a specific patient.” This line of therapy offers advantages in enabling multiple doses instead of one-time editing, safer delivery methods, lesser side effects. Higher efficacy and the capacity to address multiple disorders.

According to Noubar Afeyan, Chairman and Co-Founder of Tessera Therapeutics and Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, “Tessera has pioneered an entirely new platform for curing diseases at their source: DNA. Tessera’s Gene Writing platform further expands the decade-long work done at Flagship Labs on new medicines based on nucleic acid codes—programmable therapeutic molecules such as messenger RNA, targeted fusogenic vectors and epigenetic controllers. As we increase Flagship’s capital contribution to $60M, we welcome our new financial partners as long-term investors in Tessera’s mission of delivering on the full potential of genetic medicine.”

The Gene Writing technology employs high-throughput computation and lab-based analytics to test and validate thousands of synthetically designed mobile gene elements for their gene writing capabilities. Using DNA as the therapeutic agent, Tessera aims to develop a platform to design medicines based on nucleic acids- DNA and RNA for a diverse portfolio of diseases- cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, infections and cancer. The early-stage startup plans to scale up personnel, manufacturing and automation capacities to build the gene writing technology. With successful preclinical results in mouse models, Tessera plans to accelerate research programs to move into clinical trials in the future.

By Sahana Shankar, Ph.D. Candidate

Related Article: Tessera Therapeutics Aims to Rewrite DNA with New Age Gene Manipulators




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