Ensoma Announces $85 Million Financing and Agreement to Acquire Twelve Bio to Advance Portfolio of In Vivo Engineered Cellular Medicines
Financing co-led by Arix Bioscience and 5AM Ventures, with participation from leading healthcare funds
Company to acquire Twelve Bio, next-generation CRISPR engineering company, expanding Engenious™ in vivo platform
BOSTON, January 5, 2023 – Ensoma, a genomic medicines company developing one-time in vivo treatments that precisely engineer any cell of the hematopoietic system, today announced the completion of an $85 million financing. Proceeds will enable Ensoma to advance the development of its Engenious™ in vivo engineered cell therapy platform and accelerate its pipeline of genomic medicines for immuno-oncology and other therapeutic applications. The company also announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Twelve Bio ApS, a gene editing company pioneering the therapeutic application of next-generation CRISPR-Cas technology.
“Ensoma’s platform will enable the next generation of smart immune cell medicines to address complex diseases. With these expanded capabilities, we can precisely engineer, in vivo, the hematopoietic stem cell with DNA edits as small as one base pair or as large as 35 kilobase insertions, with just a single intravenous administration. That combined capability and the multiplexing opportunities it enables are unprecedented and position Engenious as a best-in-class engineered cell therapy platform,” said Emile Nuwaysir, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Ensoma. “In addition, Ensoma now has the capital, expertise and committed partners necessary to bring our breakthrough medicines to the clinic. We look forward to welcoming the Twelve Bio team and their world-class expertise to Ensoma and are immensely grateful to new and existing investors for their support of Ensoma’s mission to democratize genomic medicines.”
Series B Financing to Advance Development of In Vivo Engineered Cell Therapies
The Series B financing was co-led by Arix Bioscience and 5AM Ventures, with participation from previous and new investors. Existing investors in the Series B include 5AM Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Cormorant Asset Management, Viking Global Investors, Takeda Ventures, Inc., SymBiosis, Alexandria Venture Investments and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. New investors include Arix Bioscience, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Catalio Capital Management, Solasta Ventures and Mirae Asset.
In connection with the financing, Mark Chin, managing director at Arix Bioscience and director of Twelve Bio, will join Ensoma’s board of directors. Mr. Chin said, “With a single outpatient treatment, Ensoma’s Engenious platform empowers patients’ own cells to cure disease. This opens new diseases and geographies to the power of in vivo genomic medicines, dramatically simplifies the logistics of treatment and will eliminate much of the burden of treatment on the healthcare system and the patient. We are excited to partner with the Ensoma team to be a part of this next chapter.”
Agreement to Acquire Twelve Bio to Bolster Engenious™ Platform
Twelve Bio was co-founded in 2019 by Stefano Stella, Ph.D., and Guillermo Montoya, Ph.D., based on research conducted at the Novo Nordisk Foundation (NNF) Center for Protein Research at the University of Copenhagen. With support from the Creation House program sponsored by the BioInnovation Institute in Copenhagen and seed investment from Arix Bioscience, Twelve Bio has advanced foundational insights from X-ray crystallography and cryogenic electron microscopy to further engineer and evolve CRISPR-Cas12a into wholly novel sequences with unique properties useful for a range of DNA editing strategies. This engineering builds on the natural advantages of Cas12a, including small size, high specificity, multiplexing and ability to target sections of DNA not amenable to other Cas nucleases. With the addition of this world-class science to the existing Ensoma platform, the company will be well positioned to advance the field of genome engineering, develop the next generation of genome editors with gene-writing capabilities and create a new class of smart immune cell medicines targeting rare and prevalent disease.
Dr. Stella, currently director and chief technology officer of Twelve Bio, will join the leadership team at Ensoma as vice president of gene editing. He brings significant expertise in gene editing, structural biology, protein engineering and nucleic acid/protein interactions, ranging from ribosomes to TALENs and meganucleases to CRISPR systems. Professor Montoya, a leading researcher in the field of macromolecular machines involved in cell division, genome maintenance and genome editing, will join Ensoma’s scientific advisory board. Dr Shengdar Q. Tsai, a leading expert in genome engineering and hematology and member of the scientific advisory board of Twelve Bio, will also join the scientific advisory board at Ensoma.
Dr. Stella said, “The development of groundbreaking genetic medicines to cure complex diseases and reach the largest population of patients is a challenge. At Twelve Bio, we have developed innovative gene editing tools that can correct sequences linked to genetic disorders, and Ensoma is a world-leading company for in vivo delivery to hemopoietic stem cells. I am very excited about working together, and I am confident we will be able to bring forward innovative single-dose medicines to cure life-threatening diseases.”
Closing of the acquisition of Twelve Bio is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including clearance by the Danish Business Authority pursuant to Danish foreign direct investment laws.
Ensoma’s Engenious™ platform is bringing the power of in vivo multi-cellular genomic medicines to complex diseases. Devoid of any viral genes, the company’s virus-like-particle (VLP) delivery system is engineered to minimize immune responses and has a vast payload capacity – up to 35 kilobases of packaged DNA – to enable a full range of modern gene modification technologies. The ability to use several of these tools in a single therapy holds the full promise of in vivo multiplexed therapies: several multi-functional engineered cell types working in concert to fight disease from within. Engenious is based on over two decades of academic and clinical research generated by its scientific co-founders and renowned experts Hans-Peter Kiem, M.D., Ph.D., of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, and André Lieber, M.D., Ph.D., of University of Washington School of Medicine.
Ensoma believes the future of medicine lies within us. The company’s Engenious™ platform combines innovative delivery technology with the full DNA editing toolkit to tackle diseases that affect millions around the world, such as cancer and autoimmune disease, as well as inherited conditions. Ensoma is supported by top-tier investors, a strategic collaboration with Takeda and a passionate team committed to a bold, global vision for genomic medicine. Ensoma is based in Boston. For more information, visit ensoma.com.
Katie Engleman, 1AB