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Biotechnology startup Rewrite Therapeutics Inc. has been acquired by Intellia Therapeutics Inc. in a potential $200 million deal that will be a windfall for Rewrite investors.

Venture-capital firm Civilization Ventures in 2020 and 2021 led financings totaling $2.1 million in Berkeley, Calif.-based gene-editing startup Rewrite, said Civilization General Partner Shahram Seyedin-Noor. Cambridge, Mass.-based Intellia has acquired Rewrite for $45 million up front and up to $155 million in success-based payments, Intellia and Rewrite said Thursday.

San Francisco-based Civilization, which closed on $35 million for its second venture fund in 2020, finances and mentors biotechnology and other life-sciences startups.

Mr. Seyedin-Noor said he first met Rewrite co-founder Shakked Halperin in December 2018 and in 2020 provided initial funds to Rewrite, which formed to advance technology Dr Halperin developed at the University of California, Berkeley, where Dr Halperin earned his doctorate. Prefix Capital, a Civilization limited partner, also participated in the financing of Rewrite, Mr Seyedin-Noor says.

Several companies aim to treat diseases by using gene-editing technology to make precise changes in the genetic code of cells. Intellia is developing therapies for genetic conditions, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Rewrite The Future

Dr Halperin, who co-founded Rewrite with Berkeley professor David Schaffer, developed a new approach to gene editing. The enzyme Cas9 typically used in gene editing acts like molecular scissors that cause a break in both strands of the DNA molecule, Dr Halperin says.

Potential therapeutic applications for Cas9 include disabling a gene that produces a faulty, disease-causing protein, he says.

Depending on the disease, various approaches to gene editing will be needed, says Intellia spokesman Ian Karp. Intellia’s purchase of Rewrite is part of the company’s effort to assemble a broad spectrum of genome-editing capabilities, he says. Intellia hasn’t yet said which diseases it intends to treat using Rewrite technology, he added.

“The acquisition of Rewrite adds some new tools to our toolbox,” Mr Karp says.

Rewrite’s technology could be used to make specific changes that correct a genetic flaw, Dr. Halperin said. Its system uses a version of Cas9 that makes a single-stranded break in DNA and enables various types of edits, including deletions or insertions of genetic material. While traditional gene editing is like scissors, Rewrite’s approach is like a pencil, Dr. Halperin said.

Rewrite used financing from Civilization and Prefix to license and build upon technology from Berkeley. Rewrite late last year had an offer from venture firms that wanted to lead a $35 million investment in the company, according to Mr Seyedin-Noor, declining to name the investors.

But Dr Halperin says the offer from Intellia, a top gene-editing company, represented the fastest and best route to delivering treatments for patients.

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