The gene editing technology industry is in full swing, and Mammoth Biosciences is one of the startups at the forefront of this revolution. This company has secured $100 million in contracts with various pharmaceutical giants, as well as government grants. Last September, its valuation skyrocketed to $1 billion after a venture capital deal involving Amazon, Mayfield and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Co-founded by Janice Chen, Jennifer Doudna, Trevor Martin and Lucas Harrington in 2017, Mammoth Biosciences works on the identification of bacterial and viral infections or the early detection of cancer. To do this, it uses CRISPR technology, or grouped and regularly interspaced short palindromic repetitions, which allows efficient cutting of genomes and chopping up DNA to treat genetic diseases thanks to the Cas9 enzyme.
The year 2020 was key in expanding the work of this San Francisco-based startup. It was one of seven companies awarded $249 million by the National Institutes of Health for rapid COVID-19 tests, allowing it to expand its proprietary DetectR test to commercial labs that diagnose the virus. It also joined GSK Consumer Healthcare in developing an accurate, fully disposable, rapid and portable test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus.RELATED
The following year, Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston paid the startup $41 million to expand cell and gene therapy tools, potentially earning the drugmaker about $650 million in royalties.
So far in 2022, Mammoth Biosciences has received $40 million from Bayer to focus on tests and cures for liver diseases. The rights for this payment could amount to 1,000 million dollars. Likewise, the startup has obtained authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration for the emergency use of a CRISPR-based molecular diagnostic test for coronavirus.
Looking ahead, the goal of this biotech startup is to become “a $100 billion next-generation CRISPR technology company,” Janice Chen herself told CNBC.
In less than a decade, venture capital investment in companies focused on CRISPR technology has reached $3 billion, according to Chris Dokomajilar, founder and CEO of DealForma. Mammoth Biosciences is the startup that has obtained the most funding in recent years, according to an analysis by the GlobalData Pharmaceutical Intelligence Center. In total, it has raised $265 million in four financings from at least 15 venture capital and business angel firms.
Patent legal dispute
A few weeks ago, the United States Patent and Trademark Office released its verdict in a legal dispute over who first got the Cas9 tool to work.
In a paper published in June 2012, a team led by Dr. Charpentier and Dr. Jennifer Doudna (co-founder of Mammoth Biosciences), from the University of California, Berkeley, described how they reprogrammed the Cas9 enzyme to enable gene editing . Both doctors received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for this discovery.
The legal dispute arises as a result of the patent. The Broad association, which includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, claimed to have made gene-editing technology work. The United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Nobel Prize committee follow different criteria. According to law professor Jacob Sherkow to The Wall Street Journal, the committee awards the prize to the first to conceive of the invention, “not to the first to get it to work in a process that is easy and replicable for other scientists.”
In the end, US patent authorities have ruled that the Broad Institute deserves credit for inventing a way to use CRISPR in plants and animals. This decision impacts the licensing of several CRISPR companies, but does not affect the gene editing system used by Mammoth Biosciences.