One of the central players involved in sparking the gene editing boom has added a $30 million B round to its reserves. Caribou Biosciences, the brainchild of Berkeley professor and gene editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, added a mix of ag investors with the biotech backers which have helped get the company started.
Ag investor Anterra Capital led the way, followed by Heritage Group, Maverick Capital Ventures, and Pontifax AgTech. Also participating in the round were existing investors, including F-Prime Capital Partners, Novartis ($NVS), Mission Bay Capital, and 5 Prime Ventures.
About a year ago, Berkeley, CA-based Caribou spun out Intellia, which swiftly teamed up with Novartis on gene editing in related cancer fields. Doudna co-founded the company with Rachel Haurwitz in 2011 and later worked briefly with Cambridge, MA-based Editas ($EDIT). Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier have been heralded for their effort in developing CRISPR/Cas9 tech, which has been adopted by labs around the world as a simple and quick tech for gene editing.
“This gives us a two-plus year runway so we can accomplish two things at once,” says Haurwitz. One of those things is “investing in cutting-edge new versions of gene editing technologies.” And Caribou has both Cas9 and non-Cas9 in the CRISPR spotlight.
The big focus initially in gene editing has been making that first cut in DNA, Haurwitz adds. But now there’s also a much greater concentration on how that DNA gets repaired and controlling that process so the company can get “great at getting the functional outcomes we need.”
The other aspect that the company wants to focus on is going beyond the partnerships that helped build the company and going further into developing a pipeline of its own. But the CEO isn’t providing timelines yet on just when Caribou will be in the clinic.Caribou also plans to do some hiring with the fresh cash injection. The biotech has a staff of 30 now, says Haurwitz, and will be at 40 to 50 by the end of this year.
The prospect of creating a radical new approach to editing out diseases--and improving crops--has kept gene editing as one of the most popular fields in biotech, inspiring successful IPOs for Editas and Intellia even as other offerings were scaled back or foundered in the face of a market chill.
The field isn’t without controversy, though. The universities behind Doudna and Charpentier have challenged the patents that Editas obtained through Feng Zhang.
Anterra’s Philip Austin is taking a board seat at Caribou.
“Anterra was established to help transform the food sector by bringing cutting edge technologies into this industry,” Austin said in a statement. “We are excited to be working with the Caribou management team as they seek to expand the commercial applications of their genome editing platform across therapeutics, agriculture, and other industries."
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