Intellia Closes on $70 Million Series B Round, Plans to Hire 20

Intellia Therapeutics Closes on $70 Million Series B Round, Plans to Hire 20
September 1, 2015
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Cambridge, Mass.-based Intellia Therapeutics announced that it had closed on a Series B investment round worth $70 million. The additional financing was led by OrbiMed HealthCare Fund Management, with additional investors including Fidelity Management and Research Company, Janus Capital Management, Foresite Capital, Sectoral Asset Management, EcoR1 Capital and others. Atlas Venture and Novartis AG , founding investors, also participated.

Nessan Bermingham, CEO, Intellia
Intellia is one of a handful of companies focused on CRISPR/Cas9 technology. The technology acts as a sort of 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.

“Jennifer Doudna was one of the discoverers of the CRISPR/Cas9 system,” said Nessan Bermingham, founder, chief executive officer and president of Intellia in an interview with BioSpace . “For us, having Jennifer actively involved today is a significant help as we continue to develop the technology and applications, not only as the discoverer, but with the crystallography structures she’s discovered and helping to understand how the technology actually works. She’s been a terrific addition to the team.”

The funding will allow the company 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.

When asked what specific indications Intellia was focusing on initially, Bermingham explained that their approach is currently a little broader. “That’s a key question, what are our indications and when will we get into the clinic? The way we look at it and are building out the technology, is really about building a broad pipeline.”

The initial focus, broadly, is cancer and modification of hematopoetic stem cells for a variety of disorders. “We have not disclosed any of the specific disorders for any of those applications because we’re exploring multiple different targets within each of the diseases,” said Bermingham. “It’s really premature to be announcing the target of the applications. As a starting point, we’re really focusing on the liver. We licensed technology and will continue to explore other delivery systems.”

The company is actively recruiting research and development staff for their facilities in Cambridge. “We have a recruitment section on our website,” said Bermingham. “We’re just under 40 FTEs. One of the areas we’re really focused on and want to actively fill and grow is research and development capabilities here in Cambridge. Today we’ve advertised for six and we’re looking to hire at least another 15-20 people in the next quarter and we’ll go from there.”

CRISPER/Cas9 technology is still tangled up in lawsusits 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.

“There continues to be discussions around the IP,” said Bermingham. “We continue to expand our IP portfolio actively and the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) continues to review the various topics regarding the IP for CRISPR/Cas9. We are confident in our position on the IP.”

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