Leveragen is a Boston-based biotech startup company providing customized genetic modeling services. Our platform technology is CRISPR-facilitated gene targeting in embryonic stem (ES) cells. The key advantage of our approach over direct CRISPR injection in zygotes is that screening for designed mutations is carried out in ES cells before generating mice. The ES cell-based approach is most suitable for creating large fragment knockins (e.g. reporter/Cre/conditional alleles) and complex modifications (e.g. chromosome engineering/conditional point mutations/genomic humanization), for which direct CRISPR injection is either inefficient or impossible. By overriding the needs to maintain a large colony for mutation screens in mice and avoiding repeated injections due to low mutation rate, our approach leads to significant savings in both cost and time.
Leveragen was founded in October 2017 by Dr. Weisheng V. Chen, who has over 20 years of experience in mouse genetic engineering. Dr. Chen trained with the mouse geneticist Philippe Soriano (broadly known for his discovery of the ROSA26 locus) and carried out large scale gene trap mutagenesis and screening for targets of growth factor signaling (Chen et al, Nature Genetics 2004). As a postdoc with the Lasker laureate and serial entrepreneur Tom Maniatis, he focused on the study of clustered protocadherins (Pcdhs) and systematically generated a series of deletion alleles in mice (ranging from 10 Kb to 1 Mb), and carried out extensive molecular, cellular, circuitry and behavioral analyses. These endeavors have led to several key discoveries, which together reveal a potentially central role for the clustered Pcdhs in brain wiring (Chen et al, Neuron 2012; Lefebvre et al, Nature 2012; Thu et al, Cell 2014; Mountoufaris and Chen et al, Science 2017; Chen et al, Science 2017). Prior to founding Leveragen, Dr. Chen was a founding scientist in Kallyope, a NYC-based biotech company co-founded by Tom Maniatis, Charles Zuker and the Nobel Laureate Richard Axel, where he led the Genetic Models team to generate a large number of mutant mice to enable lineage-specific labeling and mutagenesis, as well as optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulations.