The Rise of CRISPR Based Startups

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CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology seems to be the only thing that everyone is talking about nowadays and maybe the only thing researchers want to work on. Ever since its discovery in 2012, it has shaken the world of research and astonished researchers and everyone alike with the dream of eradicating any disease at the genetic level or even to develop superhuman powers. It shows the potential to fulfill all the promises bioengineering has made.

To fulfil these dreams inevitably come companies who are accelerating research to bring the benefits of this technology beyond mice, zebra fish, potatoes and fruit flies. Most of these startups are by the discoverers and co-authors of the gene editing technology. These startups are being established despite the fierce legal battle between the two sides backed by Harvard University and University of Berkeley.

Editas Medicine

Cambridge, MA-USA | Website 

Due to its fresh $120 million round of funding, we are going to put Editas Medicine at the top of the list here. The $120 million funding round included heavy weights such as Bill Gates, Google Ventures and a Boris Nikolic led syndicate.

It was founded by the current patent owner of CRISPR/Cas 9 gene editing technology, Feng Zhang and the pompous professor of Genetics at Harvard, George Church. The company has exclusive rights to Harvard’s patents on the gene editing tools. Focusing on utilising CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs technologies in humans, the startup has a number of early stage research programs, one of which includes a genome surgery to cure rare eye disease.

Caribou Biosciences

Berkeley, CA - USA | Website

Not to be left far behind, Caribou Biosciences with its own impressive set of investors and a fierce patent battle between its founder Dr. Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang (founder of Editas Medicine) is aiming commercialise its own CRISPR/Cas9 technology. It has exclusive licenses with University of California, Berkeley and University of Vienna to their gene editing patents and breakthroughs.

While researchers at Editas are working to identify ways to cure rare genetic diseases, Caribou researchers are improving on the CRISPR/Cas9 technology itself to make it more flexible in terms of targeting genomes in different organisms. With the aim to lend out to other companies to use this to create in vivo and in vitro cures for diseases.

CRISPR Therapeutics

Massachusetts, USA | Website

Well funded and founded by another co-discoverer of CIRSPR/Cas9 from the University of Vienna, Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, CRISPR Therapeutics is focusing on serious diseases. Precision medicine is what they are aiming for with a long term aim to cure diseases in-vivo. Currently it is conducting research into ex-vivo treatment of diseases by working closely with patients due to limitation .

Intellia Therapeutics

Cambridge, MA- USA | Website

Intellia Therapeutics is a child of Caribou Biosciences, counts Dr. Jennifer Doudna as one of its advisors. It is involved in discovery, development and distribution of cell and human gene therapies.

It is partnered with Novartis and is in advanced stages of developing in-vitro CRISRP/Cas9 cell therapy for hematopoietic stem cell and chimeric antigen receptor T cell based applications. Based on the above technology they are aiming at developing treatments for diseases o blog and liver and even cancer.

Juno Therapeutics

Seattle, WA-USA | Website

Although not technically a startup, since it just went through with its $265 million IPO, Juno has entered into a partnership with Editas Therapeutics to co-develop the underlying CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology and also develop cancer therapies.

Juno Therapeutics will use CRISPR exclusively to improve its T-cell and T-cell receptor therapies to treat cancer by using the body’s own cells and engineered to recognise and kill cancerous cell. They appear to be ahead of others, maybe even Novartis and Intellia, and are most likely to come out with a CRISPR/Cas9 based treatment by 2017.

Cellectis Group

New Brighton, MN - USA | Website

Founded in 2010, Cellectis Plant Sciences is partnered with University of Minnesota to use CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to create healthier plant products. The company already owns or has rights to TALEN gene editing in plants.

Sources: Cellectis Press Release

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