Cambridge company embarks on genome engineering

THE CONCEPTStephen Dixon

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When a tumor grows on an organ, doctors remove it. When a hip stops working, they replace it. When a faulty gene causes a disorder like Huntington’s disease or sickle cell anemia, however, there isn’t a surgery to fix the problem.

But a Cambridge company launching Monday aims to develop therapies that can put troublesome genes under the knife, so to speak, cutting out bad DNA like a scalpel excises bad tissue to treat diseases caused by genetic mutations.

“The way to think about it is molecular surgery,” said Dr. J. Keith Joung, director of the molecular pathology unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and a cofounder of the new company, Editas Medicine. “The idea is you can go in and make changes to the DNA.”

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