In February, biotechnology company Beam Therapeutics Inc closed its initial public offering (IPO) of 12,176,471 shares of common stock, including the exercise in full by the underwriters of their option to purchase up to 1,588,235 additional shares of common stock, at a public offering price of $17.00 per share. The aggregate gross proceeds to Beam from the offering were approximately $207 million, before deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and other offering expenses.
Founded in 2017, Beam uses a new approach to CRISPR called base editing. Invented by David Liu, a researcher at the nonprofit Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, base editing allows scientists to change individual letters of DNA.
Beam’s vision is to create a new class of precision genetic medicines with advantages over other experimental gene-editing efforts, including more predictable outcomes and fewer errors.
“If existing gene editing approaches are ‘scissors’ for the genome, our base editors are ‘pencils,’ erasing and rewriting one letter in the gene,” Beam stated in its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The company has 12 preclinical programs with the potential to treat a broad array of diseases, including sickle cell disease, forms of leukemia, an inherited strain of macular degeneration, and liver disorders.
Beam plans to apply to the Food and Drug Administration as early as next year to begin clinical trials.
Future Horizons in Precision Genetic Medicines
A key part of the company’s strategy is to build on its innovative research culture by exploring new and complementary technologies in base editing, gene editing, and genetic medicine.
Beam has exclusively licensed the use of prime editing, an emerging gene editing technology that utilizes a reverse transcriptase to rewrite short sequences of DNA at a CRISPR-directed location, without causing a double-stranded break, from Cambridge-based Prime Medicine in certain fields and for certain applications similar to those Beam is already pursuing with base editing. The license gives Beam the exclusive right to make any transition mutation (such as an A-to-G or C-to-T change) as well as to exploit any approach for the treatment of sickle cell disease using prime editing.
Through a license agreement with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Beam has exclusively licensed the use of certain RNA base editing technology and Cas12b nuclease technology for all applications. This licensed RNA base editing technologies include the REPAIR™ system for A-to-I editing, as well as the RESCUE™ system for C-to-U editing. RNA base editing may be useful for transient editing of the transcriptome. Access to the Cas12b nuclease technology allows Beam to create DNA base editors that can bind to different target sites in the genome, further expanding the range of sites that we can edit. Additionally, access to the Cas12b nuclease technology allows the company to make “cut” edits, which may be appropriate for some applications that require a double-stranded break.
Collectively, these additional technologies enable will advance Beam’s portfolio of programs across a wide range of editing profiles and multiple delivery vehicles, in some cases exploring multiple editing approaches in parallel with other priority therapeutic programs.
On September 28, 2020, Beam announced the commencement of a proposed public offering of 4,500,000 shares of its common stock. All of the shares will be offered by Beam. Beam also expects to grant the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 675,000 shares of its common stock. As of October 3, the company priced its public offering of 5M common shares at $23.50/share, for gross proceeds of ~$117.5M.
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