Is Mammoth Biosciences the cure to our genetic problems?
Biotech startup Mammoth Biosciences officially achieved “unicorn” status in September 2021. After securing US$195 million in funding, it now has a total valuation of more than US$1 billion.
The financing for the California-based company comprises a US$150 million in its Series D round, following a $45 million in Series C funding in late 2020 led by venture capitals and investment firms.
The company will use the funds to expand and develop its stable of next-generation CRISPR products to detect and cure diseases. Its goal is to develop permanent genetic cures through in vivo and ex vivo gene-editing therapeutics and democratize disease detection with on-demand diagnostics.
What is CRISPR?
An acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”, CRISPR is a technology that can be used to edit genes by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequences, not dissimilar to a pair of biological scissors. It is now considered one of the fastest, cheapest and most accurate techniques to edit DNA and potentially cure diseases.
One of Mammoth Biosciences’ founders, Jennifer Doudna, actually pioneered the CRISPR technology. She won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for her work eight years ago by demonstrating CRISPR could be used to cut and edit DNA.
How did Mammoth Biosciences grow?
During the pandemic, Mammoth teamed up with Agilent Technologies, a leading American company in the life sciences and diagnostics markets, to help launch its upcoming COVID-19 diagnostic test. It was designed to handle more than four thousand samples every day. Mammoth was the first biotech company to demonstrate CRISPR-based detection of SARS-CoV-2 in patient samples with its DETECTR™ platform, which could identify the specific genomic sequences of the coronavirus.
With increased funding, Mammoth’s therapeutic pipeline would only continue to grow. New financing would continue to fuel the company’s efforts to build “permanent, one-time cures and decentralized molecular diagnostics” enabling accurate, affordable and actionable results for patients and consumers.
Potentials of CRISPR technology
While Mammoth Biosciences is one of the few CRISPR-based companies that have achieved unicorn status, it is not the only one that has attained remarkable achievements. CRISPR Therapeutics and Vertex Pharmaceuticals have announced that they have successfully undergone trials on CRISPR-based beta-thalassemia and sickle cell treatments, curing patients after editing their genes with CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Another company, Intellia Therapeutics, which was also founded by Doudna, has discovered that by injecting CRISPR treatment directly into the body, a gene that causes liver disorders can be silenced.
Other recent health tech breakthroughs
Health tech startups have received much recognition, especially during the COVID pandemic. Many investors have realized the transformative potential of med-tech startups. Cue Health has achieved profitability in 2020 by providing portable COVID-19 testing kits, which can test for signs of COVID using a nasal swab. San Francisco-based Innovaccer’s Data Activation Platform unifies patient records and helps healthcare providers transform care delivery. China’s largest online healthcare platform JD Health raised more than US$3 billion during 2020 by creating a comprehensive online healthcare system that creates a holistic service catering to customers’ wide range of healthcare needs.
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