Posted by on March 15, 2018 4:42 pm
Categories: Crispr Articles

Source: CRISPR pioneer Feng Zhang launches a 'limitless' biotech upstart with big plans for speeding new drug development

One of the key scientific players involved in the emergence of gene editing tech has just unveiled a new CRISPR system he’s found, which will now be employed by a startup called Arbor Biotechnologies in Cambridge, MA.

In a paper published today in Molecular Cell, MIT’s Feng Zhang outlines his discovery of a new enzyme called Cas13d, which he says is considerably smaller and more versatile than the rest of the Cas13 family of enzymes, giving it greater potential in RNA surgery.

David Scott

The biotech came out of stealth mode today with a $15.6 million round, which we’ve been tracking, and a plan to employ the CRISPR system with a platform tech built around artificial intelligence, genome sequencing, gene synthesis and screening efforts to go about the business of finding new molecules. Using the new CRISPR system to characterize proteins, the group plans to play a role in the ongoing integration of computational science in drug discovery, looking to shorten development timelines and improve on some incredibly bad failure rates.

It will likely take years to prove if they’re right, but they already have the attention of every drug development organization on the planet.

David Walt of Harvard and the Wyss Institute and co-founder of Illumina and Quanterix is credited as a co-founder with Zhang along with David Scott and Winston Yang. And they are pumped about the scientific potential.

“Arbor’s revolutionary platform accelerates the rate of discovery and characterization of new biomolecules by orders of magnitude,” said Scott in a statement.

“We are now at the cusp of being able to convert sequence data into a catalog of protein functions. The possibilities are limitless,” noted Yang.

Zhang was the principal scientist behind the emergence of Editas, one of the original gene editing startups to hit following the emergence of CRISPR/Cas9, a tech that several biotechs are using to edit out disease in genes.

Keith Crandell of ARCH Venture Partners, Annie Hazlehurst of Faridan Ventures, and several private investors are credited with the round.

Image: Feng Zhang.MIT

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Published at Thu, 15 Mar 2018 16:36:00 +0000

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