Broken String snags $15 million to make cell and gene therapy safer

INDUCE-seq platform aims to enable the development of CRISPR cell and gene therapies that are ‘safer by design.’

UK-based genomics company Broken String Biosciences has closed a $15 million Series A investment round as it seeks to improve the safety of cell and gene therapies. The round was co-led by Illumina Ventures and Mérieux Equity Partners, with HERAN Partners also joining as a new investor.

Cell and gene therapies based on genome editing technologies hold great potential to correct disease at the genetic level, but assessing whether these therapies are safe for patients is extremely challenging. Founded in 2020 as a spinout from Cardiff University, Broken String is developing a technology platform that aims to enable the development of CRISPR cell and gene therapies that are safer by design.

The new funding will be used to further develop Broken String’s “next generation sequencing” DNA break mapping platform, known as INDUCE-seq, with the goal of turning it into a scalable ‘Platform as a Service’ offering. The investment will also facilitate the company’s continued expansion, including team recruitment at its UK headquarters, as well as the establishment of a US office.

“Operating at the intersection of biology, bioinformatics and data science, our INDUCE-seq platform offers an unbiased, end-to-end solution that expedites the measurement and assessment of off-target gene editing during therapeutic development,” said Dr Felix Dobbs, CEO of Broken String. “This provides essential information required to progress therapeutic programs that leverage gene editing and mitigate potential risks that can result in later-stage clinical failures. By developing a deployable PaaS offering, we have the opportunity to provide the cell and gene therapy community with this much-needed solution and achieve rapid market growth.”

The development of cell and gene therapies, particularly those utilizing genome editing technologies like CRISPR-Cas9, necessitates rigorous pre-clinical assessments of off-target editing events. INDUCE-seq helps researchers to evaluate the specificity of genome editing tools and their associated off-target genetic outcomes. The platform employs next generation sequencing to directly measure and quantify DNA double-strand breaks. Broken String says this unlocks new therapeutic targets within the genome, while also helping advance gene editing programs.

As part of this funding round, Yoann Bonnamour from Mérieux Equity Partners and Arnaud Autret from Illumina Ventures have joined Broken String Biosciences’ Board of Directors.

“The clinical progression of cell and gene therapies is held back by off-target safety concerns – we recognize the power of Broken String Biosciences’ technology to drive advances in safer genome editing, genome biology and genetic toxicology, and optimize drug development programs,” said Autret. “The platform has the potential to become the gold-standard solution for measuring off-target gene editing.”

“The gene therapy market, and the essential off-target assessment technology alongside it, is a rapidly growing opportunity,” said Bonnamour. “Broken String Biosciences’ team has the technical expertise and resources, paired with its strong connection with a world-leading genomics research institute, to drive this platform forward and transform the way gene editing programs are designed and developed.”