Quotient Therapeutics emerged from stealth Nov. 21 with $50 million in funding from the life science investment firm Flagship Pioneering. Quotient’s platform hunts for new drug targets by using sensitive genetic sequencing that explores the genetic variation between individual cells. The firm will have its main base in Cambridge, England, close to three of its scientific cofounders at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
“There’s been a revolution in drug development over the last 20-plus years following the sequencing of the human genome,” says Quotient’s president, Jake Rubens. But he says that finding new drug targets requires a more fine-grained study of variation on the cellular level.
“Each of us has not one genome, but trillions of genomes inside of each of our bodies,” Rubens says. Each cell has an average of 2,000 mutations, he notes. “That means that every single base in our human genome is mutated roughly 30 million times across our body. And there’s five times more genetic diversity inside of each of our livers than there is in the germline of the entire world’s population.”
To seek out these variations, Quotient scientists first identify and isolate individual cells in a tissue that seem to have favorable or deleterious changes. They then sequence the DNA of those cells using technology that can detect low levels of mutation. Computation then helps sift out typos that either cause disease or give cells a favorable benefit.
After finding variations that could be drug targets, Quotient starts to look more like any other drug discovery company, Rubens says—though one that is keeping its options open regarding therapeutic areas and drug modalities. So far, he says, the team has found and validated targets in areas including infectious disease, autoimmunity, immuno-oncology, and cardiometabolic disease. The firm is also active in neurodegeneration, rare diseases, and aging, he adds.
Quotient is striking for being the first Flagship company with significant research operations outside the US. The Cambridge site currently hosts 20 genomic scientists who comprise the core of Quotient’s platform. The translational research group is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.