Spotlight Therapeutics, a Calif.-based biotech company focused on in vivo CRISPR (clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) editing, recently announced closure of a Series A financing round that brought the company $30 million to fund its non-viral gene editing therapeutics.
Venture capital investment firm GV, formerly Google Ventures, led the Series A financing round for the company. Other investors contributed to the round but have decided to remain anonymous.
"Spotlight's unique approach represents the potential to expand applications and democratize gene editing for patients," according to a statement made by the company’s co-founders and board members, Alex Marson, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California San Francisco, Jacob Corn, Ph.D., of ETH Zürich and Patrick Hsu, Ph.D., of the University of California Berkeley. "Having the support of top-tier investors like GV will be important as we continue to build the company and its programs to treat serious diseases," said Mary Haak-Frendscho, Ph.D., Spotlight’s President, CEO and board member.
Spotlight Therapeutics, a privately held biotechnology company, established itself in 2018 as a leading developer of first-in-class cell-targeted CRISPR gene editing therapies. The company’s proprietary TAGE (Targeted Active Gene Editor) platform facilitates the advancement of modular and programmable CRISPR ribonucleoproteins, which are optimized for in vivo cell-targeted delivery, towards research in hemoglobinopathies and immuno-oncology. According to Spotlight, the “modular” approach avoids complexities and toxicities associated with standard viral, cell and nanoparticle delivery methods.
The company is one of many that believe CRISPR technologies can offer hope for patients with debilitating diseases. Companies involved in researching CRISPR for a variety of diseases include Caribou Biosciences, Metagenomi, CRISPR Therapeutics and Intellia Therapeutics, among several others.
Researchers recently found that a CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing system destroyed cancerous cells in mice, for instance, and went so far as to suggest the technology may be capable of extending life expectancy in humans. Currently, CRISPR Cas-9, an enzyme that “cuts” foreign DNA, is primarily used for rare disease on cells that have been removed from the body. When the foreign DNA is cut by CRISPR Cas-9, the natural repair mechanisms in the cell kick in.
The leading contribution to Spotlight’s recent financing round marks GV’s long history of backing gene-focused companies. In mid-November, GV contributed to Decibel Therapeutics’ Series D financing round which secured the company with $82.2 million to support preclinical and clinical studies in the company’s pipeline. The Series D financing round was led by OrbiMed, with BlackRock Health Sciences, Casdin Capital, Janus Henderson, Samsara BioCapital and Surveyor Capital representing new investors in the company.
GV also backs Verve Therapeutics, a next-generation cardiovascular company developing one-time gene editing treatments that edit the human genome and mimic cardioprotective variants that knock out cholesterol-increasing genes in the liver and treat coronary heart disease. In summer 2020, GV led a Series A3 financing round that raised $63 million in funding for Verve. The Series A2 round was conducted with participation from ARCH Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, Biomatics Capital, Wellington Management and Casdin Capital.