Synthego reels in $110M to ramp up CRISPR kit capacity

Synthego wants to make gene-editing tools more accessible to scientists around the world. To that end, the Bay Area biotech has raised $110 million in series C funding to ramp up capacity for its engineered cells and CRISPR kits and expand its market in Europe and Asia. 

“This new funding allows us to expand our reach and build out our full stack platform capabilities at a perfect time,” said Synthego CEO and cofounder Paul Dabrowski, in a statement. "Biological medicines are on the cusp of a revolution with the coming curative cell and gene therapies, and we are proud to support this industry.”

The company, founded by a pair of former SpaceX engineers, came out of stealth in 2016. It markets two product portfolios: CRISPRevolution, a CRISPR kit for use in the lab to modify cells, and Engineered Cells, in which Synthego essentially “CRISPRs” the cells for customers, Dabrowski said. The customer specifies the type of cell and how they want it to be modified and Synthego makes the edits for them. 

Gene editing could be a potential game changer in various diseases, but it’s an expensive business to get into. At the moment, Synthego offers scientists the tools they need to develop gene editing-based treatments without having to start from scratch. But as the company builds out its toolkits, it hopes to improve its disease models and informatics to become a sort of CRISPR “word processor” for scientists to use. 

In addition to widening access to CRISPR tools beyond the best-funded researchers or companies, Synthego hopes its tools will help drive down the cost of gene therapies. 

The big thing about cell and gene therapies is that the ones that have been approved cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Dabrowski said. From the perspective of payers or patients, that’s not very accessible. 

The new round, led by Founders Fund, brings Synthego’s total raised to $160 million. Existing backers 8VC and Menlo Ventures also pitched in. Synthego most recently picked up $41 million in a series B round in January 2017. At the time, the company comprised about 40 employees. Now, it’s grown to about 130, Dabrowski said. The company expects to keep growing in this fashion and the sheer pace at which the products are growing is a good sign, he said. 

“The technology has really matured. We’ve launched a new profile since then and growth of that has been really stellar ... Engineered Cells are kind of becoming a standard for people who either don’t know how to use CRISPR or don’t want to be doing it in their lab,” Dabrowski said. 

The new funding is slated for market expansion, “doubling down” on its two products and extending its “full stack genome engineering platform to enable new capabilities for scientists,” Synthego said in the statement. This means boosting its capacity to meet demand, Dabrowski said.