Gene Editing, Venture, Venture Capital

Startup making Cas9 proxy for gene editing gets $55M to develop tools/software

Boulder-based startup Inscripta — which you might remember as the company that discovered a new CRISPR enzyme… and then gave it away for free — just landed $55.5 million in a Series C round.

Inscripta made headlines last December when it announced the company had unearthed what its calling “MAD7,” an alternative enzyme to CAS9 that could be used to edit DNA. Having a proxy for Cas9 can get more companies jumping into the gene editing game, Inscripta’s CEO Kevin Ness tells me.

Kevin Ness

“CAS9 is a special enzyme that acts like a molecular scissor that cuts up the DNA at a very precise location,” Ness said. “Some people don’t have access to it because it’s been exclusively licensed to a few players, and ones that do have access must pay extremely high upfront fees and reach through royalties. It’s backbreaking and it stops innovation. We released our own enzyme that’s free for all researchers to use.”

It’s not simply altruistic, of course. The company hopes to grow the pool of companies editing genes so that they have more customers to make tools and software for (not dissimilar to Illumina’s strategy, come to think of it).

In fact, Inscripta has an interesting link to Illumina. John Stuelpnagel, the chairman of Inscripta’s board, was a co-founder and the very first CEO of Illumina, predating Jay Flatley by a year. Inscripta is also led by other genomic tech veterans, including Ness himself, who co-founded QuantaLife and 10x Genomics.

Bryan Roberts

The team and the company’s plans caught the attention of investors, with a syndicate that includes Venrock (which led the company’s $23 million Series B round).

“We have experienced firsthand how the capacity and cost of genome sequencing has advanced faster than Moore’s Law,” said Venrock partner Bryan Roberts in a statement. “With Inscripta we have the opportunity to unlock that potential at an even faster rate for genome writing. Broad dissemination of Inscripta’s highly multiplexed, cost efficient, easy-to-use platform will help unleash the next generation of scientific discovery.”

For this latest $55.5 million C round, new investors Mérieux Développement and Paladin Capital Group led and were joined by existing investors. The new cash will be used to expand Inscripta’s staff and invest in commercialization, Ness said.


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