The Google of CRISPR tech? Tech leg­ends Tim Cook and Jeff Hu­ber back Mam­moth Bio­sciences

A start­up led by a group of Bay Area grad stu­dents says it’s build­ing a plat­form that har­ness­es the “search en­gine” func­tion of CRISPR, win­ning $23 mil­lion in back­ing from a slew of high pro­file in­vestors Tues­day.

The com­pa­ny, called Mam­moth Bio­sciences, was co-found­ed by CRISPR leg­end Jen­nifer Doud­na — one of the most fa­mous sci­en­tif­ic pi­o­neers be­hind CRISPR/Cas9 gene edit­ing tech. The oth­er founders in­clude the 29-year-old CEO Trevor Mar­tin, a Stan­ford PhD, and CTO Ash­ley Tehranchi, al­so out of Stan­ford. The duo launched the com­pa­ny with the help of two stu­dents in Doud­na’s lab: Jan­ice Chen and Lu­cas Har­ring­ton, who will lead sci­en­tif­ic re­search. Doud­na heads up the sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.

Tim Cook

Op­er­at­ing un­der stealth mode un­til re­cent­ly, Mam­moth first stepped out this April with news that it planned to cre­ate a plat­form for di­ag­nos­tics. With tech in-li­censed from Berke­ley, the com­pa­ny wants to ap­ply CRISPR tech to new fron­tiers.

While many de­scribe CRISPR as the “scis­sors” of gene edit­ing, cut­ting DNA and re­plac­ing bits of ge­net­ic ma­te­r­i­al where need­ed, Mam­moth is more in­ter­est­ed in the search func­tion of CRISPR.

Jeff Hu­ber

“CRISPR is bi­ol­o­gy’s search en­gine first,” Mar­tin told TechCrunch in an in­ter­view. “Con­trol + F is the ex­cit­ing part. At core it’s just this amaz­ing search en­gine that we can use to find things. The way that we search for things is just like Google.”

Now, Mam­moth has a round of fresh cap­i­tal to in­vest in its plat­form and staff. The $23 mil­lion round was led by May­field with par­tic­i­pa­tion from NFX and 8VC. Ap­ple’s Tim Cook and the first CEO of Sil­i­con Val­ley can­cer screen­ing start­up Grail, Jeff Hu­ber, al­so joined the round for an un­spec­i­fied amount.


Im­age: Co-founders Lu­cas Har­ring­ton, Trevor Mar­tin, Ash­ley Tehranchi, Jen­nifer Doudb­na and Jan­ice Chen. mam­moth bio­sciences

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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So what hap­pened with No­var­tis' gene ther­a­py group? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genentech swooped in to buy NASH-focused Jecure Therapeutics back in 2018, a handful of the startup’s executives weren’t quite ready to disperse.

It had been just three years since Jecure launched with a preclinical portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors — and the takeover came sooner than anyone, including CEO Jeff Stafford, had expected. So he got talking with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two serial entrepreneurs in charge of Jecure’s R&D.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

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