Flagship Pioneering Launches First UK Biotech with $50M Investment

Pictured: A 3D illustration of a DNA particle comp

Pictured: A 3D illustration of a DNA particle comp

peterschreiber.media/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Quotient Therapeutics, co-located in Cambridge, Mass. and Cambridge, U.K., will receive $50 million over two years from Flagship to study somatic genomics with an eye to finding new targets for gene therapies.

Pictured: A 3D illustration of a DNA particle complex /iStock, peterschreiber.media

Investment firm Flagship Pioneering on Tuesday launched its first U.K. biotech. Quotient Therapeutics, a company studying genetic variation on the cellular level, joins 41 other companies in the firm’s ecosystem.

After a two-year incubation period in the investment firm, Quotient is stepping out on its own with a $50 million commitment from Flagship “to advance development of the company’s platform,” and “pursue a pipeline of medicines across a wide range of therapeutic areas and modalities,” according to the companies’ announcement.

Quotient will be focused on studying somatic genomics with an eye to finding new targets for gene therapies and treatments.

“All cells accumulate random genetic changes in their DNA, resulting in trillions of unique genomes in the body,” Quotient CEO Geoffrey von Maltzahn said in a statement. “Some genetic changes make a cell resistant or vulnerable to disease, while others can cause disease. We started Quotient to study the natural genetics library inside every tissue, discover gene variants that are beneficial, neutral, or disease-causing, and to harness that knowledge to develop the medicines of tomorrow.”

Tracking variation on that level requires extreme granularity. Quotient’s model is reliant on its proprietary single-molecule genome sequencing technology, created in partnership with Flagship, U.K.-based Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Texas Southwestern. The platform studies cells using four steps: cell phenotyping from tissue samples, then isolation, single cell genotyping, and then computation.

“As a result, naturally selected genes, proteins, and pathways are identified as prospective targets for the development of transformative therapies intended to cure, prevent, or reverse disease,” the companies said in the press release.

Quotient President Jacob Rubens added that “we’ve created the world’s largest somatic genomes dataset, demonstrated the applicability of our platform to multiple therapeutic areas, and translated our genetic discoveries into drug discoveries.”

This also marks a first for Flagship Pioneering, as Quotient will be based in both Cambridge, Mass. and Cambridge, U.K. It’s also an unusual step for Flagship, which has generally kept its startups near its home base of Boston, though the co-location across the pond does give the company proximity to its partners at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Flagship has been expanding its presence recently, notably into the U.K. and Asia, particularly with the launch of a regional hub in Singapore.

The investment firm launched in 2000 and in the 23 years since has “originated and fostered more than 100 scientific ventures, resulting in more than $90 billion in aggregate value,” according to Flagship, while deploying over $3.4 billion in capital toward the founding and growth of “its pioneering companies” along with more than $26 billion of follow-on investments from other institutions.

Connor Lynch is a freelance writer based in Ottawa, Canada. Reach him at lynchjourno@gmail.com.