Here is the 10-slide deck a new biotech company addressing a critical gene-therapy bottleneck used to raise $55 million in just a few months.

64x Bio cofounder and CEO Alexis Rovner.

New therapies that target cells and genes are growing in popularity, but face manufacturing issues.
A new startup, 64xBio, wants to improve how these treatments are made and delivered.
The company, cofounded by George Church, just raised a $55 million Series A round.

Market research isn’t the most exciting part of a young scientist’s work — but for one researcher, it turned into a business opportunity.

Alexis Rovner had been looking into new ways of sequencing genes as part of her postdoctoral research under prolific biotech founder Dr. George Church. But she stumbled upon a problem while doing market research: people developing new types of medicines called cell and gene therapies generally need to use special viruses to deliver them deep into the body, called viral vectors. Yet it is incredibly inefficient and expensive to make big batches of these viruses, because they are so difficult to engineer correctly.

This discovery led to Alexis Rovner becoming CEO of a new biotech: 64x Bio. The company is using computational tools and synthetic biology to make it easier to produce these viral vectors. 

On Wednesday, 64x Bio closed a $55 million Series A round. Lifeforce Capital led the round, which also included Northpond Ventures, Future Ventures, Aldevron cofounder and former CEO Michael Chambers and Recursion Pharmaceuticals cofounder and former CEO Chris Gibson. 

There are around a dozen cell- and gene-therapies available for patients today. But scientists and investors have high hopes for the future — there are more than 440 of these treatments in development, according to a May 2021 McKinsey report, and VCs continue to pour money into this emerging science. 

Players in the field think that targeting genes could not only treat diseases, but potentially prevent heart attacks or Alzheimer’s disease. But a manufacturing bottleneck could severely limit the science’s potential. That’s where 64x Bio comes in. 

“The market is growing, and all of these companies are facing the same problem,” Rovner told Insider.

64x Bio provided Insider with the presentation it used to raise $55 million in Series A funding. The presentation was edited by the company to remove sensitive and proprietary information.

Here is the 10-slide presentation 64x Bio used to raise $55 million in Series A funding from Lifeforce Capital and other investors. 

64x Bio’s research involves special viral vectors that deliver gene therapies to a specific part of the body. Right now, technicians have to brew large vats of cells to get a small amount of useable viruses.

Rovner, Church and their cofounders are using computer science to pinpoint what changes could lead to more viruses coming out of each batch.

Viral vectors are used in many new types of medicine, including some vaccines. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine uses a viral vector, for example.64x Bio’s primary focus is gene therapy vectors, but it could expand into other markets.

One wrench in most companies’ plans is that they use human cell samples to grow these viral vectors. But human cells are designed to resist viruses, making the production of vectors difficult.

Manufacturing is a large issue in biotech, because medicines are getting more and more complicated. Treatments that use viral vectors are some of the most complicated ones, because you generally need to tweak the cells so they will produce viruses.

Startups can either make viral vectors in-house, or outsource it to contractors. But there are too few contractors with experience making viral vectors, leading to long wait times.

Cells require one, if not several genetic changes in order to produce the right viral vectors. Right now, finding the cell with the best changes involves a lot of trial-and-error.”It’s likely that it would mean you know, testing more mutation possibilities, then there are stars in the universe to find a winner,” Rovner said.

64x Bio is developing an algorithm called cell map that will help predict which combination of cell changes will lead to the best viral vector.

“The round only took a few months to close, which speaks to the industry need. We received our first term sheet in a week and half,” Rovner said.

The company plans to use the Series A round to grow its employee count from 10 to 50 this year, while expanding its clientele. Rovner declined to say how many customers 64x Bio has currently, and what its customer growth plans are.

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