Booming Intellia Snaps Up Vertex's Former Space Near Kendall Square, Hopes to Hire for Newly Created Division

Booming Intellia Snaps Up Vertex's Former Space Near Kendall Square, Hopes to Hire for New Division
January 22, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Gene-editing company Intellia Therapeutics has snapped up 65,000 square feet of space in the booming Kendall Square pharmaceutical hub and hopes to hire additional staff to bolster its operations, the Boston Business Journal reported this morning.

Intellia, formed in 2014, and its new division Xtellia Therapeutics use gene editing techniques to develop therapies for blood and liver diseases and cancer and autoimmune diseases respectively. Intellia struck a deal with Novartis in January 2015 to focus on CRISPR/Cas9 applications with chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CART)- and Hematopoietic Stem Cell (HSC)-based therapies. The technique acts as sort of a genetic scissor allowing scientists to cut out a very specific section of DNA and replace it with an undamaged or modified section. Jennifer Doudna, who co-founded Intellia, led the team with Emmanuelle Charpentier that developed the CRISPR/Cas9 application. Xtellia scientists will leverage the potential of CRISPR/Cas9 across a variety of immune cells, such as natural killer cells and T-cells, to develop therapies for patients where treatment needs are inadequately addressed, the company said earlier this month.

The company has taken up space in the former Vertex Pharmaceuticals building. Vertex vacated the space in 2013 when it moved a few miles into Boston. The building currently houses CRISPR Therapeutics, Synlogic, Inc. and RaNA Therapeutics. CRISPER/Cas9 technology is still tangled up in lawsuits over patents. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, who cofounded CRISPR Therapeutics with Rodger Novak, published the first paper describing the technology. Feeng Zhang, a researcher at the MIT-Harvard Broad Institute, has also filed a broad U.S. patent claim on the technology, BioSpace reported earlier.

In September, Intellia raised $70 million in Series B financing, which the company said it will use to continue operations for the next few years with a focus on building out the CRISPR/Cas9 platforms, work on delivery systems and move into both in vivo and ex vivo preclinical studies. That $70 million builds on $15 million the company raised in 2014 in Series A financing.

Intellia said it hopes to occupy its new space sometime in the third quarter. The company currently has between 40 and 50 full time employees. In September, Nessan Bermingham, founder, chief executive officer and president of Intellia, told BioSpace the company was looking to hire 15 to 20 people. On its website there are a number of job openings listed, including research associates for cell and molecular biology, screening and molecular biology and formulation. The company is also hiring scientists with focuses on hematopoietic stem cell biology and formulation and analytics.

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