Gene-editing Beam Therapeutics sets sights on $100M IPO

David Liu - Beam Therapeutics
Beam launched in May 2018 with license agreements to base-editing technology David Liu developed in his lab at MIT. (Beam Therapeutics)

Beam Therapeutics, the gene-editing biotech based on the work of Editas Medicine co-founder David Liu, is hitting Wall Street. Nearly seven months after topping up its coffers with a $135 million series B round, the company filed Friday to raise up to $100 million in its Nasdaq IPO. 

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beam has earmarked the funds for IND-enabling studies and clinical trials for “certain” programs in its pipeline, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The proceeds will also support R&D for its preclinical-stage pipeline. The company's base-editing programs target point mutations—mutations where a single nucleotide base, or letter, is changed, inserted or deleted. 

The IPO haul will also bankroll discovery-stage research and push the company’s three delivery methods—electroporation, lipid nanoparticles and adeno-associated viruses—through preclinical proof of concept. 

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Beam came out of the shadows in May last year with $87 million and plans to develop multiple base-editing platforms across a broad pipeline. It launched with license agreements to base-editing technology that Liu developed in his lab at MIT and to certain intellectual property licensed to Editas Medicine by Harvard University, the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as to some of Editas’ technology. In return, Editas picked up a stake in Beam and will be eligible for royalties on treatments that use its tech. 

What we think of as “traditional” CRISPR is often compared to a pair of scissors, as these systems target a specific spot on the genome and “cut” it, making a double-stranded break in the DNA. Beam CEO John Evans thinks of the company’s base-editing CRISPR as more like a pencil. 

When it reaches its target, it finds a letter, erases it and rewrites it as a different letter without disrupting the sequence of other letters around it, he told FierceBiotech last year. The potential of the technology could be vast: “Over half of the genetic changes known to drive disease in clinical databases are point mutations, misspellings in the genome," Evans said. 

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Beam’s most advanced programs are in blood disorders and oncology, with treatments for beta thalassemia, sickle cell disease, acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia all at the lead-optimization stage. It also has programs in liver disease and disorders of the eye and central nervous system in the works.