(Bloomberg) -- Editas Medicine Inc., whose stock has shed more than half its value this year, is focused on improving its own gene-editing technology even as competition increases from newer science, Chief Executive Officer James Mullen said.
Eight-year-old Editas, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is among the first companies pursuing treatments using Crispr, a Nobel-prize winning technology that edits a person’s genes. The company’s current pipeline includes experimental treatments for eye diseases and blood disorders such as sickle-cell disease.
Since Editas was founded in 2013, new technologies, such as base and prime editing, have emerged. So have a wave of new biotechs pursuing them. But while Mullen keeps track of the newer technologies, he said he isn’t “obsessed with them.”
“The danger is always chasing the next shiny object,” Mullen said in an interview Friday. “It has danger in two directions. The next shiny object could just be a distraction, but it could also be the next revolution.”
Mullen, who became CEO in February and has served as chairman since 2018, said that while he monitors the competition, he doesn’t think Editas needs to do anything brand new. He spends more time thinking about ways to deliver the edits where they need to go within the body. Editas’ main program injects the treatment directly into a person’s eye using a viral vector.
The company expects to reveal programs beyond the eye next year, Mullen said. In the meantime, Editas needs to convince employees and investors to keep faith. Shares of Editas have fallen 58% this year through Thursday’s close.
Mullen said his advantage is that he’s worked in biotech for four decades and has gone through such cycles before. He said he’s lost more money on paper than he made at least three times over the course of his career.
“If you spend all your time looking at your share price, you’re going to be distracted,” Mullen said.
The CEO said he needs to keep employees focused and assure them the stock price will take care of itself over time, an especially important message when competition for top talent in the Boston area is fiercer than Mullen has ever seen.
Editas could face competition from other companies in sickle-cell disease and beta thalassemia should its experimental treatment make it to market. But Mullen said he isn’t concerned about finding a way to stand out, noting that early studies aren’t addressing the underlying sickness and death caused by the diseases.
“This is the advantage of being an old dog in this industry because I play the long game,” he said.
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