Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 21, 2022

BioTechniques' Top Five CRISPR Gene Editing Startup Companies


Five of the companies that are driving change in biotechnology and biomedicine with CRISPR gene editing.

Since Crick and Watson discovered DNA’s structure in the 1950s, scientists have developed a comprehensive understanding of how to read genetic code. And 2012’s discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool has made it possible for scientists to rewrite this genetic code. CRISPR gene editing involves using a guide RNA and an enzyme (usually Cas9) to recognize and cleave DNA strands that are complementary to the guide RNA, which enables researchers to edit genomic sequences. As a result of this development in genome editing, the past decade has seen scientific and medical companies develop powerful CRISPR tools to solve complicated problems across sectors like healthcare, agriculture, and energy.

Here the life sciences journal BioTechniques lists five of the top startup companies that are employing CRISPR gene editing tools to shape the future of biotechnology and biomedicine.

1.      Inscripta

Andrew Garst, Ryan T. Gill, and Tanya Lipscomb founded Inscripta in 2015. Based in Colorado, the biotechnology company has developed a digital genome engineering platform that revolutionizes CRISPR-associated nucleases. This is the world’s first benchtop platform for scalable digital genome engineering with push-button simplicity.

Inscripta is particularly well-known for developing the MAD7™ nuclease, which has encouraged the extensive adoption of CRISPR tools in commercial and academic settings. Inscripta’s CRISPR nucleases include synthesized and natural versions of “MADzymes”, a name inspired by Madagascan biodiversity. These improved enzymes offer features like PAM recognition sequences, reduced sizes, cut efficiencies, and a variety of enzyme kinetics.

2.          Mammoth Biosciences

Jennifer Doudna, Janice Chen, Lucas Harrington, and Trevor Martin founded Mammoth Biosciences in 2017. Based in California, the company has developed a CRISPR-based detection platform on which researchers can build tests for diagnostic applications, enabling human disease detection. Mammoth Biosciences is currently applying its proprietary platform to discover new Cas proteins and overcome the challenges associated with CRISPR-Cas systems. The company has also developed a platform to detect SARS-CoV-2, which has proven key to COVID-19 diagnostics.

Furthermore, Mammoth Biosciences has developed a wide-ranging CRISPR toolkit for enhanced DNA editing. These tools are game changers for healthcare applications, both for at-home and in-clinic testing. The company now plans to develop its solutions for many other sectors too, including agriculture and biodefense.

3.          Spotlight Therapeutics

Alex Marson, Patrick Hsu, and Jacob Corn founded Spotlight Therapeutics in 2017. Based in California, Spotlight Therapeutics has built a targeted active gene editing platform that scientists can use to develop biologics that are targeted to specific cell populations in vivo. The company addresses the challenges of cell, viral, and nanoparticle-mediated delivery in CRISPR gene editing through Targeted Active Gene Editors (TAGE), a new class of biologics.

Spotlight Therapeutics is also crafting the next generation of CRISPR products, focusing especially on the delivery problems surrounding in vivo and ex vivo editing for CRISPR-validated indications. Plus, the company is developing immuno-oncology applications that involve reprogramming the tumor microenvironment to make it more immune permissive.

4.          Refuge Biotechnologies

Stanley Qi, Bing C. Wang, and David Parkinson founded Refuge Biotechnologies in 2015. Based in California, the cancer immunotherapy company develops cell therapies based on CRISPRa (activation) and CRISPRi (interference) technologies to fight cancer by activating or repressing genes. These accurate modulations of gene function can create a variety of therapeutic functions without making permanent edits to the genome. Refuge Biotechnologies is working on a variety of therapies that are progressing toward clinical investigation.

5.          Ligandal

Andre Watson and Christian Foster founded Ligandal in 2013. Based in California, Ligandal uses ligands (small biomolecules that dock at specific receptors on a cell’s surface) to develop next-generation, non-viral, protein-based biomaterials. Ligandal has conceptualized a technology that streamlines the in vivo delivery mechanisms for genetic tools, CRISPR-based and otherwise. The regenerative medicine and pandemic defense biotechnology company is particularly well-known for its SARS-BLOCK™ system. This system combines a selection of synthetic peptide scaffolds that act as an “antidote-vaccine” against the virus that causes coronavirus. Ligandal has also developed a nanomedicine platform that targets molecular “zip codes” or receptors in and on cells.

CRISPR Gene Editing: An Uprising of Revolution (News - Alert) and Modernization

Thanks to its programmable nature, CRISPR has triggered an uprising of revolution and modernization throughout several industries, advancing genome engineering studies and practices around the world. These are just five of the numerous companies that have employed CRISPR gene editing tools to edit genetic code across an array of organisms. And these companies will continue to innovate, bringing CRISPR to even more applications.

About BioTechniques

BioTechniques is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that life scientists and other research professionals from all over the world read and use to advance their knowledge. The highly acclaimed journal publishes the latest information in pioneering lab methodologies, instrumentation, techniques, and technologies. Users can also access BioTechniques’ multimedia website, where they can find informative webinars, videos, podcasts, articles, eBooks, and infographics and partake in important industry-specific discussions.

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