Verve Therapeutics, a Cambridge biotech that wants to use gene-editing to lower cholesterol, said Thursday that it has raised $63 million in venture capital to advance an experimental approach to fighting heart disease.
The company raised $60 million in venture capital in its first fund-raising effort less than two years ago. Verve was officially launched in May 2019 and has financial backing from a number of well-known venture capitalists, including GV, formerly Google Ventures.
Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who cofounded Verve and serves as its chief executive, said the $123 million reflects enthusiasm about Verve’s novel approach to treating cardiac disease. The firm wants to use the revolutionary genome-editing tool CRISPR.
“Most companies focused on gene editing are focused on very rare diseases,” he said. “Very few are focused on cardiovascular disease and even fewer on heart attacks, the leading cause of death in the world.”
Verve’s founders have helped identify healthy adults who are naturally resistant to heart disease because of mutations that turn off cholesterol-raising genes in the liver. These individuals have low levels of LDL, or “bad," cholesterol, or low levels of triglycerides, or both.
The company wants to develop gene-editing medicines that mimic these naturally protective genetic mutations. The medicines would be geared for people who have already had heart attacks and have “sky-high cholesterol,” Kathiresan said.
The current standard of treatment for high cholesterol typically includes statin drugs. Those medicines are popular and often very effective, but patients don’t always take them as instructed.
“We want to take that chronic disease model and change it to a one-and-done” approach, Kathiresan said.
The latest round of venture capital fund-raising was led by GV, with participation from current investors ARCH Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, and Biomatics Capital. There were also two new investors, Wellington Management and Casdin Capital.
“Verve’s approach for a once-and-done treatment to address coronary heart disease has the potential to eliminate the leading cause of death in the world, similar to the way the polio vaccine changed history in the last century,” said Dr. Krishna Yeshwant, managing partner at GV.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.