Shares of Beam Therapeutics (NASDAQ:BEAM), a biotech that's working on creating a new class of precision genetic medicines based on a novel approach to gene editing, traded publicly for the first time Thursday, and on Friday afternoon, shares were trading more than 22% above the offering price of $17. The initial public offering raised $180 million for the company, which now has a market capitalization above $1 billion.
Beam Therapeutics is a preclinical-stage company that's developing a gene-editing platform using "base editing" technology, which enables changes to individual bases, the fundamental building blocks of DNA. Most existing gene-editing technologies, such as CRISPR, make double-stranded cuts to DNA and rely on cellular mechanisms to repair the molecule and complete the edit. Base editing, in contrast, can precisely target a single base pair and edit the DNA "letter" without cutting the molecule. Where CRISPR uses genomic "scissors," Beam, in its filing with the SEC, described its approach as more analogous to a pencil that can erase and rewrite letters in the gene sequence.
Beam is working on 12 different therapeutics, targeting genetic diseases in hematology, oncology, liver disease, and eye disorders. The company says it has achieved preclinical proof-of-concept for a treatment for sickle cell disease and believes it's close to achieving that milestone for other programs, including one for use with CAR-T treatments for leukemia. Beam hopes to file Investigational New Drug applications (INDs) for multiple programs this year, enabling the start of clinical studies, followed by a wave of IND filings in 2021.