Biotech Verve launches on mission to replace statins with CRISPR gene editing tech

Could CRISPR gene editing one day replace the need for cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins?

US biotech Verve Therapeutics thinks so after launching with backing of GV – formerly Google Ventures – to discover and develop gene editing therapies, based on technologies such as CRISPR, to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Verve has secured $58.5 million in Series A financing in a round led by GV, with Arch Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, and Biomatics Capital also on board.

Verve aims to use human genetic analysis and gene editing to create new treatments for adults at risk of coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease and still the leading cause of death worldwide.

The company was founded by a team of world-renowned researchers in cardiovascular genetics and pioneers of gene editing.

Sekar Kathiresan

These include Sekar Kathiresan from Massachusetts General Hospital, Kiran Musunuru, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and J. Keith Joung, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard.

Funds raised will be used to advance the biotech’s pre-clinical technology through proof-of-concept studies.

The company has a portfolio of gene editing technologies, including a collaboration with Beam Therapeutics and licence agreements with Harvard University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Verve has identified healthy adults who carry naturally occurring gene variants that dramatically lower their lifetime risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.

The company aims to use this knowledge to develop gene editing therapies that confer lifelong protection in adults at risk of coronary artery disease.

The company said that gene editing technologies including CRISPR nucleases and base editors could edit genes within the adult to improve lifelong lipid and metabolic status, lowering risk of coronary artery disease.

All of the therapies developed by Verve involve making edits in adult (somatic) cells, which are not passed down to offspring.

Verve has already conducted preclinical studies that have validated the potential efficacy and safety of the technology.

Burt Adelman, co-founder and chairman of the board of Verve, said: “Cholesterol-lowering treatments have been an important advance for many patients at risk of coronary artery disease.

“However, as the disease’s prevalence rises in low- and middle-income countries, the current treatment model of daily pills or monthly injections over a lifetime must evolve if we are to effectively protect millions of people from disability or death due to coronary artery disease. Imagine if a single injection could permanently and safely prevent coronary disease. That’s the singular goal that Verve will be pursuing.”

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