David Liu (Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Out of CRISPR pi­o­neer David Li­u's lab comes a small mol­e­cule play tar­get­ing ex­osites — and it's raised a mod­est $25M to push to­ward clin­ic

David Liu may be best known as a CRISPR trail­blaz­er be­hind Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine, Beam Ther­a­peu­tics and Prime Med­i­cine. But more than six years ago, he worked with a stu­dent from his Har­vard lab and then-col­league Alan Saghatelian on a much dif­fer­ent project: de­vel­op­ing a small mol­e­cule in­hibitor of in­sulin-de­grad­ing en­zymes.

For close to six decades, sci­en­tists had the­o­rized that block­ing the en­zyme can sal­vage enough in­sulin to treat Type 2 di­a­betes. The prob­lem is that IDE, de­spite its name, doesn’t just de­grade in­sulin; it al­so gets rid of glucagon, which is some­thing you ac­tu­al­ly don’t want a lot of for a di­a­bet­ic pa­tient. Tra­di­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery meth­ods couldn’t solve the need to shut down one ac­tiv­i­ty while leav­ing the oth­er alone.

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