Quotient emerges from Flagship with plan to explore somatic mutations

Quotient emerges from Flagship with plan to explore somatic mutations

Dive Brief:

  • Quotient Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on studying the role of somatic mutations in disease, emerged from stealth Tuesday with $50 million from Flagship Pioneering.
  • The company aims to use single-cell gene sequencing and computational techniques to parse whether the genetic changes that individual cells accumulate hold clues to both the cures and causes of disease.
  • Quotient was co-founded by a group of Flagship executives and scientists from the University of Texas, Southwestern and the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the U.K, including leading cancer genetics researcher Mike Stratton.

Dive Insight:

Somatic mutations describe the random changes in the genome of individual cells. Over time, these acquired differences result in what’s described as “somatic mosaicism,” or a kaleidoscope of unique genomes across the trillions of cells in the human body.

Along with researchers at UT Southwestern and the Sanger Institute, Flagship saw this cellular mosaic as a starting point for a new biotech. While some of these somatic changes can make a cell more vulnerable to conditions like cancer, others could hold clues to disease resistance or immunity.

Research into somatic mutations has focused on cancer, but also looked at other disorders like chronic liver disease and irritable bowel disease.

“The identification of mutated genes in cancer led to the identification of new and targeted therapies in cancer,” said Stratton, who is based at the Sanger Institute. “This is another wave of opportunity.”

“We are optimistic that it will have a major impact on shaping therapy development over the next 10 to 20 years,” he added.

Flagship began exploring the concept behind Quotient in 2020, investing in the startup’s seed round one year later. Its president, Jacob Rubens, previously co-founded Sana Biotechnology and Tessera Therapeutics, the latter of which is developing a “gene writing” platform.

With its platform, Quotient aims to identify genes, proteins and disease pathways that can be changed to treat or prevent certain conditions, or even reverse damage from existing disease.

The company hasn’t yet disclosed a disease focus, but said its approach could apply to a wide range of therapeutic areas, including diseases of metabolism, the immune system, the brain and aging. Rubens said it has identified one condition as a target for lead molecules currently in development, and noted that the company wants to explore as many as 30 diseases by the end of 2025.

“When you take that breadth of therapeutic areas and potential modalities, it becomes quite apparent that we’re also going to need to form a number of partnerships in order to prosecute the breadth of the science we’re looking at here at Quotient,” he said.

Rubens said the company expects to pick its first drug leads soon, and may seek additional financing in the coming years as it builds its pipeline.

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