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Programmable genetics gets more cash as Tessera Therapeutics gets a $230 million infusion

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Jonathan Shieber
·3 min read
Technology Abstract Background futuristic design, DNA Geometric shape data connected line and dots,Futuristic digital background for Business Science and technology
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Technologists are getting better at coding biology and venture firms are flooding a new generation of startups with cash so they can commercialize their technology bringing in the next wave of genetic innovation.

Tessera Therapeutics, the Boston-based spin-up from Flagship Pioneering, is the latest company to enter the mix with $230 million in new financing to build up its platform for better biological programming.

The round was led by Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., Altitude Life Science Ventures and the second SoftBank Vision Fund, with participation from the Qatari Investment Authority and other undisclosed investors.

Last year, the company took the covers off its gene-writing service, which combined an array of different gene editing, manufacturing and synthesizing technologies to provide more tailored therapeutic instructions to genetic code.

By providing more instructions to genetic material, the company aims to increase the precision of therapies while expanding the number of potential pathogens or mutations they can target, the company said in a statement.

The thesis is similar to the approach taken by companies like Senti Bio, another early-stage biotech company that raised $105 million earlier this month.

“The ability to write in the code of life will be a defining technology of this century and drive a fundamental change in medicine. Today’s support is a testament to Tessera’s outstanding team of scientists and our focus on bringing the extraordinary promise of Gene Writing to patients,” said Geoffrey von Maltzahn, CEO and co-founder of Tessera Therapeutics, and a partner at Flagship Pioneering. “We look forward to turning this powerful technology into a new category of medicines.”

Part of a number of companies focused on gene therapies and gene-editing technologies that have been developed under the Flagship Pioneering umbrella, Tessera Therapeutics focuses on the development of new therapies that will use messenger RNA, targeted fusogenic vectors and epigenetic controllers, according to Flagship Pioneering founder and chief executive Noubar Afeyan, who also serves as the chair and co-founder of Tessera.

While Senti Bio is adding more programming to existing genetic material, Tessera uses mobile genetic elements, the most abundant genetic material in the body to create new vectors for writing and rewriting the human genome.

The company asserts that this represents a breakthrough in genetic engineering, which can build better therapies. That's because the technology can target very specific sites in the genome to make any substitutions, insertions or deletions in genetic code. Tessera also said that its tech allows for more efficient engineering of somatic cell genomes without double stranded-breaks and with very little reliance on DNA repair pathways.

Gene writing is inspired by and builds upon the shoulders of nature’s most prevalent class of genes: mobile genetic elements. Tessera’s computational and high-throughput laboratory platform has enabled the team to design, build and test thousands of engineered and synthetic mobile genetic elements for writing and rewriting the human genome.

The company said it can also write entirely new sequences into the genome by delivering only RNA.

With the new round of funding, Tessera said it would look to further develop its tech, hire more staff and establish manufacturing and automation capabilities critical for its platform and programs.