Verve Therapeutics Founded to Protect Against Heart Disease Launches with USD 58.5m in Series A Funding Led by GV
10 May 2019 - - US-based cardiovascular company Verve Therapeutics has been launched to discover and develop therapies that safely edit the adult human genome to permanently reduce a person's risk of coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of death worldwide, the company said.

Verve brings together human genetic analysis and gene editing to create a new treatment approach for adults at risk of coronary artery disease.

The company was founded by a team of world-renowned researchers in cardiovascular genetics and pioneers of gene editing, including Sekar Kathiresan, M.D., Kiran Musunuru, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, and J. Keith Joung, M.D., Ph.D.

The USD 58.5m series A financing was led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), with participation from ARCH Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, and Biomatics Capital. The funds raised will be used to advance the pre-clinical programs through proof-of-concept studies.

The company has assembled a portfolio of key gene editing technologies, which includes a collaboration with Beam Therapeutics and license agreements with Harvard University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Verve has also entered into a collaboration with Verily to develop and optimize nanoparticle formulations for therapeutic delivery.

Genetic research conducted by Verve's founders and others has identified healthy adults who carry naturally occurring gene variants that dramatically lower their lifetime risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.

Verve is building on this research to develop gene editing therapies that confer lifelong protection in adults at risk of coronary artery disease.

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

Existing treatments to prevent coronary artery disease, including cholesterol-lowering statins and other therapies, face challenges due to poor adherence, high cost, and limited access to these medicines, especially in low- and middle-income countries, where more than 80% of deaths due to coronary artery disease occur.

Gene editing technologies, including CRISPR nucleases and base editors, have the potential to change those outcomes.

Accurate, directed gene edits within the adult liver could improve lifelong lipid and metabolic status and lower coronary artery disease risk.

Preclinical studies already conducted by the company and its scientific founders have validated the potential efficacy of gene editing approaches to safely reduce coronary artery disease risk factors.

Verve will take a stepwise approach to clinical development, first taking aim at patients with life-threatening coronary artery disease and high unmet medical need. As the company establishes safety and efficacy, Verve will widen its clinical focus to include progressively larger patient populations at risk of coronary artery disease.

GV led the USD 58.5m series A financing. Also participating in the round are ARCH Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, and Biomatics Capital.

Verve launches with key intellectual property agreements in place. The company has licensed foundational CRISPR patents, including Cas9 and Cas12a, from the Broad Institute and Harvard University for human therapeutic applications against certain cardiovascular targets.

Verve has also entered into a strategic collaboration with Beam Therapeutics under which Verve will receive exclusive access to Beam's base editing, gene editing, and delivery technologies for human therapeutic applications against certain cardiovascular targets. (Beam was itself launched around technologies developed at Harvard and the Broad Institute.)

After the completion of Phase 1 studies, Beam has the ability to participate in future development and commercialisation, and share 50% of US profits and losses, for any product directed against these targets. The parties will also collaborate on the development of novel delivery technologies.

In addition, Verve has partnered with Verily with the goal of leveraging Verily's unique nanoparticle screening platform to develop and optimize new gene editing delivery vehicles.

Sekar Kathiresan has been named as Verve's chief executive officer and is expected to assume his role starting in July, 2019. He will also join Verve's board of directors. Biotech veteran Andrew Ashe, J.D., has been appointed president and chief operating officer.