Editas Medicine hopes to use CRISPR—a revolutionary new gene-editing technology—to treat conditions such as sickle-cell anemia, cancer, and cystic fibrosis.

As MIT Technology Review reports, the influx of capital “reflects a surge of interest in CRISPR,” a powerful gene cutting-and-pasting tool that’s poised to revolutionize medicine. Editas, founded by a number of gene-editing pioneers, can add the $120 million in funding to the $43 million it already raised in a previous campaign. The new group of investors includes Boris Nikolic, previously of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the current managing director of bng0, an investment firm. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is himself among the new investors, as are a slew of other unnamed benefactors.

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Anna Nowogrodzki from MIT TR explains how Editas is hoping to use CRISPR:

CRISPR is particularly promising in making precise changes in cells. T cells taken from a patient could be edited and then infused back into a patient’s body, for example—an approach that Editas is developing through a partnership with Juno [Therapeutics]. Or cells could be fixed and put back in the blood of a patient with sickle-cell anemia.

Such treatments, however, are in their early days. Editas is not yet running clinical trials involving CRISPR-edited cells. “We don’t want to get out there so fast with patients when we’re not ready, we don’t have the programs yet,” said Bosley.

In addition to using T cells in treating blood cancers, a second major project Bosley will discuss involves treating a genetic retinal disease called LCA10, which causes blindness. A dysfunctional protein in the eye’s photoreceptors is to blame. Editas scientists have taken retinal cells out of patients with LCA10 and used CRISPR to give those cells proteins that function—in the lab, for now.

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Editas is also working on a technique to treat sickle-cell anemia and even some viral diseases.

[ MIT Technology Review ]


Contact the author at george@io9.com and @dvorsky. Top image by MIT/YouTube

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