In­scrip­ta push­es fund­ing to $260 mil­lion as they launch genome edit­ing plat­form

In­scrip­ta pre­sen­ta­tions can be­gin with the ad­vent of agri­cul­ture. Or even fur­ther back: The emer­gence of man.

Nan­di­ni Kr­ish­na­murthy

“We’ve come a long way, start­ing with nat­ur­al se­lec­tion,” In­scrip­ta mi­cro­bial di­rec­tor Nan­di­ni Kr­ish­na­murthy told a ses­sion this year at Syn­Bio­Be­ta, the new an­nu­al con­fer­ence for the syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy field.

Be­hind her was a slide that’s re­curred in com­pa­ny pre­sen­ta­tions, show­ing from left to right across the bot­tom the clas­sic evo­lu­tion-of-man chart (the ‘hu­mor­ous’ kind that ends on an over­weight so­da-drinker), a pic­ture show­ing the de­vel­op­ment of corn from thin strand to bul­bous Iowan, and then a squig­gly pro­tein close-up of “di­rect­ed evo­lu­tion.” Be­low that runs an ar­row and a tick­er of how long each takes, from 10^9 years to 1.

“The ques­tion is how do you go from pre­cise­ly en­gi­neer­ing pro­teins to pre­cise­ly en­gi­neer­ing path­ways and genomes to har­ness the pow­er of bi­ol­o­gy?” she said.

Kevin Ness

It’s the kind of grand rhetoric and am­bi­tion you’ve come to ex­pect from a syn­thet­ic bio field that fea­tures Gingko Bioworks and a com­pa­ny billing it­self as the “Ne­spres­so ma­chine for DNA syn­the­sis.” In­scrip­ta keynot­ed the 2019 con­fer­ence to launch their Onyx plat­form for genome en­gi­neer­ing, and to­day they’ve an­nounced $125 mil­lion in Se­ries D fund­ing to com­mer­cial­ize that plat­form. It brings their to­tal fund­ing to $260 mil­lion. The pitch is sim­ple: Do for CRISPR what lap­tops and phones have done for su­per­com­put­ers.

“We’ve de­moc­ra­tized ac­cess to the foundry,” CEO Kevin Ness told End­points News, re­fer­ring to the mi­crotiter plates of­ten used for DNA-edit­ed cell lines. “We’ve cre­at­ed the equiv­a­lent of a desk­top com­put­er.”

The foundries are groups like Gingko and Zymer­gen that of­ten use their large fa­cil­i­ties to ed­it or­gan­isms for a ser­vice fee. In­scrip­ta is try­ing to put much of that sys­tem in the hands of re­searchers, a key cog they think will help un­leash emer­gent “bioe­con­o­my:” a world where genomes are edit­ed as much as they are read. The price, though, is not in­signif­i­cant: Around $350,000 to­tal.

In­scrip­ta first made a name when they un­veiled MAD7, an al­ter­na­tive CRISPR en­zyme to CAS9 and then gave it away for free to all re­searchers. They pitched it as an al­tru­is­tic ways of break­ing the li­cens­ing fees around CAS9 and help­ing move the en­tire field for­ward, but it was good busi­ness: In elim­i­nat­ing one bar to genome edit­ing, they widened the po­ten­tial mar­ket for their re­al prod­uct: Onyx. It was a sim­i­lar strat­e­gy to the one em­ployed Il­lu­mi­na – the genome read­ing com­pa­ny In­scrip­ta specif­i­cal­ly mar­kets them­selves around.

“We do for genome edit­ing what Il­lu­mi­na did for genome read­ing,” Ness said.

Ness has ex­pe­ri­ence on the genome-read­ing side, work­ing ear­ly in his ca­reer on PCR and lat­er co-found­ing 10x Ge­nomics, and In­scrip­ta em­ploys mul­ti­ple Il­lu­mi­na alum­ni, in­clud­ing their co-founder and first CEO: John Stuelp­nagel.

So how does it work?

A bi­ol­o­gist with the plat­form can se­lect the genes they want to knock out from In­scrip­ta’s com­put­er in­ter­face. In­scrip­ta then cre­ates the agents to knock out those genes at their man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty and sends them to the bi­ol­o­gist’s lab. The bi­ol­o­gist ap­plies those agents to the cell lines, cre­at­ing thou­sands of dif­fer­ent lines that are “bar-cod­ed.” The bi­ol­o­gist can run what­ev­er ex­per­i­ment — ex­pos­ing them to a drug, say, or an agent — and the In­scrip­ta tech can see which cell lines sur­vived.

So far the plat­form is on­ly avail­able for E. Coli and S. cere­visi­ae and the com­pa­ny’s ex­po­sure out­side syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy and bac­te­ria spaces has been lim­it­ed, but In­scrip­ta has found a big pro­po­nent in MIT’s Jim Collins. Collins has used the plat­form to cre­ate bac­te­ria cell lines with 5,000 dif­fer­ent gene ed­its. He then used those to test which genes con­ferred re­sis­tance.

It al­lowed us “to ex­plore the ge­net­ic de­pen­den­cies of an­tibi­ot­ic func­tion in un­prece­dent­ed de­tail.” Collins told GEN in Oc­to­ber.

In a stun­ning set­back, Amarin los­es big patent fight over Vas­cepa IP. And its high-fly­ing stock crash­es to earth

Amarin’s shares $AMRN were blitzed Monday evening, losing billions in value as reports spread that the company had lost its high-profile effort to keep its Vascepa patents protected from generic drugmakers.

Amarin had been fighting to keep key patents under lock and key — and away from generic rivals — for another 10 years, but District Court Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas ruled against the biotech. She ruled that:
(A)ll the Asserted Claims are invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.§ 103. Thus, the Court finds in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s remaining infringementclaim, and in their favor on their counterclaims asserting the invalidity of the AssertedClaims under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

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President Trump has a new favorite Covid-19 drug.

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Once fu­ri­ous over No­var­tis’ da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal, the FDA now says it’s noth­ing they need to take ac­tion on

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Civil and criminal sanctions were being discussed, the agency noted in a rare broadside at one of the world’s largest pharma companies. Notable lawmakers cheered the angry regulators on, urging the FDA to make an example of Novartis, which fielded Zolgensma at $2.1 million — the current record for a one-off therapy.

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For iTeos, it turned out, $75 million could only last so long.

Two years after announcing their eye-catching Series B raise, the Belgian biotech is back with an even larger Series B-2: $125 million.

The now $200 million financing illustrates the vast capital available for those with promising new immuno-oncology compounds, particularly those that might be used in combination with existing therapies. In December, iTeos announced a collaboration with Merck to test its lead compound with Keytruda this year. The proceeds will push forward that trial and help fund the ongoing Phase I/II trials for that compound, EOS-850, and a second one, EOS-448.

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Flex­ion se­cures Chi­na deal for os­teo­poro­sis drug; Strug­gling to find a buy­er, Ako­rn throws in the tow­el

→ Flexion may be hitting the brakes on clinical trials, including one for its osteoporosis Zilretta, but that’s not stopping the biotech from plotting regulatory action in China. Hong Kong Tainuo has committed $10 million upfront to seize the development and commercialization rights to Zilretta, with plans to apply for a clinical trial in China by the end of the year. Flexion, which said it has 10 months of finished goods in the US and 12 months of active pharmaceutical ingredient available, will supply all products to the Chinese partner.

Mene Pangalos via YouTube

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