Gene editing company taps heart disease experts

Gene editing company taps heart disease experts

Making Its Mark

Verve Therapeutics, a startup gene editing company trying to make a name for itself in the gene therapy center of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is bringing in renowned experts to make connections between genetics and coronary heart disease. While the 10-person company is much smaller than some of its neighbors, it boasts impressive personnel involved in drug science, according to www.endpoints.com.

The company’s website adds, “Verve is focused on discovering and developing therapies that safely edit the genomes of adults to confer protection against coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease and the leading cause of death worldwide…Verve brings together two of the biggest breakthroughs in 21st century biomedicine — human genetic analysis and gene editing — to realize a new future, one of longevity and vitality for tens of millions of people worldwide at risk of coronary artery disease.”

Verve will be trying to accomplish those goals with $58.5 million in cash GV (Google Ventures). Also involved are Biomatics Capital, ARCH Venture Partners and F-Prime Capital.

Sekar Kathiresan, director of the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad’s Cardiovascular Disease Initiative, will serve as Verve’s chief executive officer. In his prior position, Kathiresan has studied the risks of genetic issues, the potential for mitigating those risks by using lifestyle changes and compared the effectiveness of drugs with gene editing. At Verve he and his team will make the most of the latter approach.  He is hoping that the gene editing approach can lead to  a single injection that can be given to a patient one time and provide protection that lasts for many years.

Two other scientific co-founders of Verve are Kiran Musunuru, a cardio genetics expert from the University of Pennsylvania, and J Keith Joung, a Harvard University professor who co-founded the gene therapy company Editas.  Burt Adelman, who previously served as the executive vice president of research and development at Biogen, will be the chairman of the board. Another board member will be Anthony Philippakis, chief data officer of the Broad Institute.

Verve also has an alliance with Beam Therapeutics, a next-gen gene editing company. Beam was founded by Feng Zhang, one of three scientists who has been recognized for bringing about the CRISPR revolution that has given researchers an innovative tool for gene editing. Verily is on board with Verve to provide assistance with nanoparticles for drug delivery. Beam is going to offer some of the technology with an option to help with future commercialization. In addition, Verve has obtained CRISPR patents, including Cas9 and Cas12a (Cpf1), from the Broad Institute and Harvard University.

Verve is hoping to demonstrate safety and efficacy of gene editing for heart disease on a mass basis. Preclinical studies already completed and recognized by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will give the company an advantage.  To date, gene editing has focused on rare diseases, but Verve wants to make it work for the broadest patient population possible all over the world.