Featured Image: CRISPR-Cas9 by NIH

The Indian start-up ecosystem has performed extraordinarily well this year, and the 25 new unicorns are a testimony to that. The rest of the world has been catching up as well, as the San Francisco-based Mammoth Biosciences has now officially entered the coveted unicorn club after raising $150 million in its Series D funding round led by Redmile Group, and including participation from Foresite Capital, Senator Investment Group, Sixth Street, Greenspring Associates, Mayfield, Decheng Capital, Plum Alley, and NFX.

This brings the total fundraise of the company to $195 million, including the $45 million it had raised in November 2020. The proceeds from the funding round would be utilized towards broadening Mammoth’s toolkit of next-generation CRISPR systems, while focussing on building a pipeline of in vivo gene-editing therapeutics, specifically using a set of ultra-small Cas proteins. It will also continue to develop its CRISPR-based diagnostics platform.

The four-year-old start-up, founded by Jennifer Doudna, a CRISPR pioneer, and Trevor Martin (the company’s CEO), Janice Chen (the company’s CTO), and Lucas Harrington (the company’s CSO), is known to harness the diversity of nature to power the next generation of CRISPR products and its discovery of novel CRISPR systems has enabled it to use the full potential of its platform. CRISPR is a technology that can be used to cut and replace genes and may be the key to permanent cures of genetic diseases.

“We’ve been able to develop proteins to have huge advantages for different therapeutic applications, in particular, in vivo applications, so that you can build permanent genetic cures, rather than just treatments,” said Martin.
“Our diagnostic programs have been accelerated by our work in COVID, but maybe less publicly and just as importantly we’ve really shown that these ultra-small systems are incredibly powerful for therapeutic applications. That’s extremely unique and a very exciting area that we’ve unlocked on that side,” Martin said, adding, “I think what this milestone, this round, does, validates their approach to company building, which was really to focus on an area of expertise, rather than just putting themselves in a box, of diagnostics or therapeutics.”

You may remember that Mammoth had discovered the protein family called the Casɸ family. The company is focussing on this and the Cas14 protein family for in vivo gene editing and focuses on areas like liver diseases, neurology, immuno-oncology, and others, because of their ultra-small size. These protein families help therapeutics developers overcome challenges such as advanced and expanded delivery for in vivo genome editing in a variety of diseases.

The company’s “North Star” in therapeutics remains the field of permanent genetic cures and in vivo applications, using CRISPR-based therapeutics to edit cells, rather than editing the cells outside of the patient’s body.

“We don’t have a timeline [for potential products] on the therapeutic side but we’ll definitely be releasing more information over the next few years and we’ve been really excited about the technical results so far,” said Martin.