Despite Patent Battle Worth Billions, CRISPR Raises $64 Million in Series A & B Rounds
April 29, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Swiss company CRISPR Therapeutics told BioSpace today that it had closed on a Series A and Series B financing that totaled $89 million. The new funding totaled $64 million, $35 million from the new Series A and $29 million from the Series B.
“The $64 million is going toward developing CRISPR’s pipeline and the operations that need to take place behind that,” said Michelle Avery, company spokeswoman in a statement to BioSpace.com. “They haven’t announced indications for trials yet, but the funds will go toward the preclinical work.”
The financing rounds were led by SR One and Celgene Corporation , A and B, respectively. They were joined by new investors New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Abingworth. The company’s founding investor, Versant Ventures, also participated.
CRISPR Therapeutics focuses on translating CRISPR-Cas9, genome-editing technology, into therapeutics for diseases. Cas9 is an enzyme that can be programmed with RNA to cut DNA at specific, targeted locations without the genome, which allows for easier, more specific gene editing.
“CRISPR/Cas9 is a fundamental breakthrough that enables us to address the root cause of multiple diseases through gene-editing,” said Simeon George, partner at GlaxoSmithKline ’s venture capital arm, SR One, in a statement. “We are excited to be part of the very talented team from academia and industry at CRISPR Therapeutics, as they embark on a very compelling mission to transform patient care by bringing CRISPR-Cas9 into the clinic.”
CRISPER-Cas9 technology is currently embroiled in lawsuits over patent technology. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, who cofounded CRISPR Therapeutics with Rodger Novak, current chief executive officer, published the first paper describing the technology. However, Feng Zhang, a researcher at the MIT-Harvard Broad Institute, has filed a broad U.S. patent claim on the technology.
The technology was first described in the journal Science in 2012 by Doudna, then a biologist at the University of California, and Charpentier, then at the Max F Perutz Laboratories at the University of Vienna in Austria. However, Zhang, at the Broad Institute, first won a patent for the technology after submitting laboratory notes to prove he was the first inventor.
Other companies developing CRISPR include Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics, both headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. To date, no drugs or therapies have been created using CRISPR, although drug companies are optimistic. Doudna originally founded a company, Caribou Biosciences, but later cofounded Editas with Zhang and George Church.
On April 15, 2015, the University of California filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to make a decision on 10 patents that have been filed related to CRISPR-Cas9. This filing has the potential to create a “winner-takes-all” for various parties involved, including the University of Vienna, the Broad Institute, the University of California and others. The technology is believed to be worth, literally, billions of dollars.
“Expect this battle to be very expensive, very contentious, given the stakes involved,” said Greg Aharonian, director of the Center for Global Patent Quality in a statement. “I can see many hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent.”
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