Geonomics mapping company Broken String Biosciences has achieved a $15m investment in its series A funding round, with Illumina Ventures as the key industry investor. Illumina Ventures is the investment wing of biosciences giant Illumina.
Broken String’s core technology is a DNA break mapping platform that it claims will “drive the development of cell and gene therapies that are safer by design”. Its “induce-seq” platform is particularly focused on mapping off-target gene edits, allowing manufacturers to more accurately measure the unintended impacts of their therapies.
The technology notably avoids the use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, speeding up the process by directly measuring DNA double-strand breaks.
Illumina Ventures Principal, Arnaud Autret, said in a press release that hopes that it will speed the adoption of CRISPR-based gene therapies, which are currently “held back by off-target safety concerns”. The other leader in the funding round is Mérieux Equity Partners, a healthcare-focused investment group. Both Mérieux and Illumina have received a place on Broken String’s board of directors.
Despite being independently managed, the majority of Illumina Ventures’ capital comes from its parent, who are currently experiencing a wave of challenges, facing down the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US over a 2020 acquisition that also forced the company to replace its CEO. Its $23.13bn market cap is currently less than half what it was in 2021, plummeting in the two subsequent years. An early stage investment into innovative technology could be just what the ailing company needs, especially given that it downgraded its growth guidance for the year from 6%-9% to 0% in August.
The company has cut back on investments over the last two years after spending a record $9bn in 2020, including $8bn for Grail, the acquisition that has caused them so much trouble. So far the company has spent $125m this year. At the same time, GlobalData reports that the company’s net income fell by 678% in 2022.
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