Bayer powers gene editing startup Metagenomi to $65M A round

Metagenomi has raised $65 million to apply its suite of CRISPR-based systems to the treatment of genetic diseases. Leaps by Bayer co-led the series A round, continuing the German conglomerate’s multi-front push into cell and gene therapies. 

CRISPR-based gene editing has positioned researchers to tackle a wide range of diseases. However, there remains scope to improve on the delivery, immunogenicity and selectivity of existing systems and, in doing so, facilitate the safer, more effective treatment of many diseases. UC Berkeley’s Brian Thomas founded Metagenomi to pursue those improvements.

Thomas, as CEO of Metagenomi, has overseen the screening of thousands of microorganism genomes using computational algorithms, resulting in a suite of gene editing systems that may offer advantages over first-generation technologies.

That done, Metagenomi has put together a $65 million series A round. Leaps by Bayer and Humboldt Fund co-led the round with assists from Sozo Ventures, Agent Capital, InCube Ventures and HOF Capital.

Armed with the money, Metagenomi will use its technologies to build a pipeline of programs and put them through preclinical validation while continuing to expand its suite of gene editing systems. To support the work, Metagenomi has built teams focused on in vivo gene editing and cell therapy. Jak Knowles has joined Metagenomi from Bayer’s VC team to look for cell and gene therapy partners.  

Interest in Metagenomi is underpinned by the potential for it to improve on the gene editing steps that underpin gene and cell therapies. Metagenomi cited the ability to “precisely edit genomes via single base changes, knockouts or integrations, with lower potential for off-target effects” as some of the advantages over existing gene editing technologies.

CRISPR/Cas9 has high specificity but off-target gene editing has been reported. Editing the wrong target can disrupt normal gene function or cause genome instability, creating serious safety concerns. Those shortcomings have spurred interest in other systems such as CRISPR/Cpf1 but the available data suggests further improvements are needed. Metagenomi wants to meet that need.