UPDATED: CRISPR-Cas9 pioneer starts recruiting R&D group in Cambridge hub

Alexion's Bill Lundberg

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology may have deep roots in the European science scene, but it will be developed in the U.S.

CRISPR Therapeutics--which was founded in Basel, Switzerland, by Emmanuelle Charpentier, one of the pioneer scientists in the field--has hired Alexion ($ALXN) vet Bill Lundberg to head up its R&D operations in Cambridge, MA. CRISPR Therapeutics has a slate of job openings posted on its website, crisprtx.com, with plans to add more in the coming days.

CRISPR-Cas9 may be a new field, but it's advancing rapidly. CRISPR Therapeutics plans to hire 30 to 50 R&D staffers by the end of 2016, Lundberg tells FierceBiotech in an email. The move puts CRISPR Therapeutics' R&D group in the same neighborhood as Editas and Intellia, two rivals in the field.

Jennifer Doudna, a structural biologist from Berkeley, was originally credited as a cofounder of Editas before splitting away to start Caribou, which in turn outlicensed its tech to Intellia, an upstart now partnered with Novartis ($NVS). She worked on gene editing with Charpentier, who threw her support behind CRISPR Therapeutics while MIT's Feng Zhang joined the Editas group. Their work is at a very early stage, but their story of reengineering genes has swiftly captured the attention of the industry. If the DNA-splicing technology works as the pioneers claim it does, the startups in the field are in the opening stages of making some major breakthroughs. But there has also been visible tension among the founding scientists over who owns the IP involved.

"We are committed to assembling the best and brightest to rapidly advance the promise of CRISPR-Cas9 into therapies that treat serious human diseases," noted CEO Rodger Novak.

Lundberg had headed up translational medicine at Alexion.

- read the release

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