By Cathy Yarbrough, Contributing Editor
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Jason Rhodes, a partner at the biotech venture capital firm Atlas Venture, was searching for the right opportunity to advance the development of the next generation of gene therapies when the University of Massachusetts (UMass) medical school tech transfer office contacted Atlas in 2016.
UMass told Rhodes that faculty member Robert Kotin, Ph.D., had designed a novel linear DNA molecule that could transport a therapeutic gene into the nucleus of a cell without the use of a potentially immunogenic capsid, the structure that envelops the viral genome. Kotin’s research also had determined that the molecule, referred to as closed-ended DNA (ceDNA), is nonimmunogenic and could accommodate bigger payloads, including larger genes and regulatory elements, than can be transferred by current viral vectors.