Inscripta's larger goal is to provide a complete, high-throughput, multiplexed solution to its customers—essentially a "benchtop platform" for genetic engineering. (Inscripta)

Widening access to CRISPR by offering new enzymes for free

CEO: Kevin Ness
Founded: 2015
Based: Boulder, Colorado 

The scoop: Here's something you don't see very often: a medical technology company that wants to give away its goods for free.

Inscripta is offering its MAD7 CRISPR nuclease, an alternative to the more well-known Cas9, at no charge to any scientist who wants to use it. Why? To “democratize access to genome engineering” and promote widespread adoption of CRISPR tools in academic and commercial settings, CEO Kevin Ness previously told FierceMedTech.

But Inscripta's mission goes far beyond that. Its larger goal is to provide a complete, high-throughput, multiplexed solution to its customers—essentially a "benchtop platform" for genetic engineering.

What makes Inscripta fierce: Inscripta executives fundamentally believe CRISPR-based gene editing has the potential to transform society. But they also believe gene editing hasn't yet delivered on its full potential because current technologies are inadequate, even for experts in the field.

MAD7 is one member of the company's family of “MADzymes”: new-and-improved CRISPR nucleases that offer different PAM recognition sequences, different cut efficiencies, reduced sizes and different enzyme kinetics compared to other nucleases. But Inscripta’s commercial plan is to overcome the technical limitations of CRISPR-based editing systems by building the world’s first benchtop platform for scalable digital genome engineering, which it calls the Onyx platform.

“It is not your typical service company,” Jason Gammack, the company's CCO, told FierceMedTech. “We provide our MAD7 CRISPR nuclease free for research and development use, but our primary contribution to the industry is our standalone, benchtop platform for genome engineering. Onyx will allow researchers to move beyond traditional gene-editing techniques to now achieve full-scale genome engineering in their own labs.”

This, he says, will create “a boom in research” by democratizing access to high-quality, sophisticated genome engineering tools and enabling scientists to move beyond “limited and cumbersome” single gene-editing experiments. “Our platform can accomplish in weeks what it might take years for a single postdoc to achieve,” he explains. 

One of the important therapeutic applications of its tech already under study is the ability to explore antibiotic resistance, with the goal of developing new and potentially customized therapeutics against the most difficult pathogens. While not a “sexy” area for biopharma R&D, it is arguably one of the most important, what with the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

The company recently announced a series D round of $125 million to accelerate Onyx's commercial prospects. Its prototypes are up and running, and it's delivering data to some "early access" customers. The idea is to start shipping its first commercial systems in mid-2020.

The first platform will support microbial genome engineering, but Inscripta is researching and developing a platform for mammalian applications as well.

Investors: The company's December 2019 series D round was led by Paladin Capital Group and joined by new investors JS Capital Management and Oak HC/FT, as well as previous backers Venrock, Foresite, Mérieux Développement, NanoDimension and MLS Capital.