What drives the newly created CRISPR Unicorn Mammoth Biosciences


Mammoth co-founders (left to right) Trevor Martin, Janice Chen and Lucas Harrington. Image: Mammoth Biosciences

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world the importance of biotechnology’s diagnostic and therapeutic tools. From detecting the virus to creating a vaccine, companies around the world are relying on the latest biotechnology to keep our global population healthy. CRISPR, a technology used to modify genes, played an important role in global research during the pandemic.

Mammoth Biosciences, a biotechnology company, announced that it had raised $ 195 million to build next-generation CRISPR products in the therapeutic and diagnostic fields that can cure and detect disease. Mammoth has now achieved unicorn status in the industry with a valuation of over $ 1 billion.

Become a synthetic biology unicorn

“When Mammoth was founded, we focused on researching and developing proteins to enable new products for CRISPR-based diagnostics. But we always knew there were more product areas and different areas to explore. Switching to therapeutics is very exciting for us, ”says Trevor Martin, co-founder and CEO of Mammoth.

From the start, Mammoth has been interested in testing for infectious diseases like the flu. The company plans to use the new funding to expand its toolbox of next-generation CRISPR systems and focus on finding permanent genetic treatments through gene-editing therapies and on-demand diagnostics.

“We want to democratize access to high quality molecular information. During the pandemic, we saw how difficult it can be and that there really are barriers to getting this information, ”says Martin. “We see CRISPR as a way to get high quality molecular results in an accessible format. “

Find new proteins

Mammoth is considered a pioneer in the field of ultra-small CRISPR systems. Today, the company is placing more emphasis on using its technology to in vivo (in a living organism) therapies. According to Martin, the company’s smaller-sized proteins are the key to achieving this. For example, Mammoth’s Cas14 and Casɸ are much smaller proteins in the CRISPR toolkit than the original CRISPR protein, Cas9.

“Legacy CRISPR systems like Cas9 are large and can contain 1,300 amino acids. Cas14 and Casɸ are much smaller and about a third the size or less of these legacy systems. This has huge implications for the ability to deliver them anywhere in the human body, ”says Martin.

Some therapies have strict size limits that make the use of smaller proteins a necessity. Martin likens it to having a truck that can only hold a certain number of boxes in the back. Legacy systems like Cas9 can fill the whole truck with just Cas protein, or sometimes they won’t scale at all. However, Cas14 takes up very little space on the truck. This creates more room for providing other useful therapies.

Smaller proteins also allow the use of CRISPR-plus, which allows simultaneous targeting of multiple genes. It is possible to combine other types of functionality with the CRISPR protein itself. For example, this includes CRISPR activating domains to activate a gene instead of modifying a gene or CRISPR inhibitory domains to stop gene expression.

Look ahead

Mammoth’s current team includes more than 100 people with diverse talents and skills. The team includes experts in engineering, systems integration, CRISPR, chemistry, therapeutics and diagnostics.

“We are building a community of people who are both at the forefront of innovation and science, but also involved in product development,” says Martin.

Mammoth wants to push the boundaries of what’s possible with CRISPR while staying focused on how to help patients as quickly as possible. It has made enormous technical progress in terms of validating CRISPR-based diagnostics, but this is only part of its mission.

“We see this as the beginning and the first days of the impact Mammoth could have. We will have big celebrations once our first diagnostic and therapeutic tools change people’s lives for the better, ”said Martin.

thanks for Lana Bandoim for additional research and reports in this article. I am the founder of SynBioBeta, and some of the companies I write about, including Mammoth Biosciences, are the sponsors of SynBioBeta Conference and weekly summary.

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