Flagship launches first UK biotech Quotient with genome sequencing platform

New Flagship Pioneering biotech Quotient Therapeutics has lots to be thankful for this year, namely $50 million in cash, a new U.K. outpost to work from and a formal unveiling as the holiday season approaches. 

The Cambridge startup incubator took the lid off its latest company Tuesday, possibly the last Flagship launch of 2023. Quotient’s focus is on identifying potentially disease-causing genetic discrepancies that crop up in a single person’s body. Co-founder and President Jake Rubens, Ph.D., said that instead of comparing genomes across patients, the biotech aims to compare genomes with cells of a single patient. 

“It turns out that each of us doesn't have just one genome, but rather, we have more like 30 trillion, because every cell in our body has a distinct sequence of DNA,” he said in an interview. 

The center of Quotient's platform is a genome sequencing technology that’s incredibly sensitive, with Rubens saying it has the ability to detect mutations with a prevalence as low as one in 1 billion cells. Those identified mutations can then be layered over a single site in a patient’s sample, multiple sites in the sample or samples from multiple patients. Aiming the sequencing sensitivity at cells within just one patient is intended to unlock a plethora of new mutations that may otherwise not have been found.

So far, the company has been “industrializing” the platform, according to Rubens. Flagship's initial $50 million commitment will continue that effort, with Quotient working to identify the first “drug matter,” though that was about as specific as Rubens would get on what the financing will go toward. 

The potential of Quotient’s tech to identify a bevy of new therapeutic targets means the diseases of interest span the gamut from obesity to rare neurological diseases. Rubens would not specify which, if any, indications would be the initial priorities. He also wouldn’t say whether the company has been directly collaborating with fellow Flagship outfit Tessera Therapeutics.

Tessera, led by former AbbVie R&D chief Michael Severino, M.D., is using mobile genetic elements to usher in a new era of gene editing. It was co-founded by Flagship partner Geoffrey von Maltzahn, Ph.D., who also co-founded and is CEO of Quotient. Rubens was the founding CSO of Tessera. 

“We think we have opportunities to collaborate with many Flagship companies, Tessera being one of them, but it's not at all limited to conversations with Tessera,” Rubens said. 

Quotient spawned out of research from scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the U.K. and the University of Texas Southwestern. The contributions from across the pond have resulted in the biotech being the first Flagship company to be based out of the venture creation firm’s new London office that opened earlier this year. It’s a story of two Cambridges, with two-thirds of employees based out of the U.K. city while the rest work out of the Boston equivalent.