Gene-splicing start-up using CRISPR gets US$120m in funding

10 Aug 2015

Heralded as one of the biggest developments in science, the gene-editing technology CRISPR has gotten a major boost in the form of US$120m funding for the start-up Editas Medicine, which is using the technology.

The science behind the CRISPR gene-editing method is some of the most advanced at the moment, allowing geneticists to edit the fundamental make-up of a person’s DNA, and just last month the first edit of human T-cells was confirmed to have taken place.

The gene-editing method has received some negative press, however, such as the confirmation that scientists in China had used CRISPR to edit the genes of human embryos.

And yet it has also been praised for helping develop a ‘kill switch’ to prevent genetically modified (GM) crops from running amok.

According to MIT Technology Review, Editas Medicine has managed to raise the US$120m with the help of a number of investors, led by Boris Nikolic, Bill Gates’s former chief science and technology adviser at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and current managing director of the investment company bng0.

This investment nearly trebles its previous funding round, which raised US$43m, and it will now look to use its latest funding to develop new treatments for cancer, retinal disease and sickle-cell anemia.

The company, which is less than two-years-old, has particularly high hopes for using CRISPR to look at a genetic retinal disease called LCA10 that causes blindness in sufferers.

However, it has yet to begin using CRISPR to edit human T-cells.

“We don’t want to get out there so fast with patients when we’re not ready, we don’t have the programmes yet,” said Editas Medicine’s CEO Katrine Bosley.

Gene editing image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic