This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to the two women who discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 system. In 2012, French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier and American scientist Jennifer A. Doudna discovered and refined a remarkable gene editing tool. The CRISPR/Cas9 system acts like a pair of genetic scissors that scientists can use to alter the DNA of bacteria, plants and even people. In less than a decade, their discovery revolutionized genetic research. CRISPR also gave a lot of NC biotech companies new opportunities to innovate.
Let’s take a look at how three different NC companies are using this Nobel-winning technology.
Epigenos Biosciences is an NC Biotech Startup that uses CRISPR to create cancer therapies.
Epigenos Biosciences is using CRISPR/Cas9 technology to treat cancer and rare diseases. They’ll do this by suppressing genes that aren’t being properly regulated in the body. Though Epigenos Biosciences is still a new company, they show a lot of promise at their early stage. In 2020, they won a KickStart Commercialization Award for UNC-based startups.
Locus Biosciences uses CRISPR to create new defenses against bacterial infections.
Today, if you get a bacterial infection, a doctor will typically prescribe you some antibiotics to kill the harmful bacteria. However, there are some problems with this approach. For one, many bacteria have evolved to withstand traditional antibiotics. Additionally, even when antibiotics do work, they often kill beneficial bacteria as well as harmful ones. That’s why taking antibiotics can sometimes make you feel sick to your stomach. It’s also why many doctors recommend eating yogurt or taking probiotics after taking antibiotics to help replace the good bacteria in your gut.
But it’s clear we need some new ways to fight bacterial infections, and that’s where Locus Biosciences comes in. Locus Biosciences is an NC biotech company using CRISPR to engineer viruses that kill harmful bacteria. Their products are still being tested in clinical trials, but their robust pipeline makes them a key biotech company to watch.
IngateyGen plans to use CRISPR to make an allergen-free peanut.
Peanut butter-lovers rejoice! If NC biotech company IngateyGen succeeds, we may soon be able to buy hypoallergenic peanut butter. IngateyGen is using CRISPR to modify peanuts so they contain fewer of the proteins that cause peanut allergies. In February, 2020, they received $100,000 from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to pursue this goal.
Want to learn more about how genetic engineering technologies could revolutionize health? Check out our overview of next-generation sequencing!