2020-08-16| R&D

Mammoth Biosciences Signs Deal with UC Berkeley for Novel Micro CRISPR Protein

by Tulip Chakraborty
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The California-based firm announced an exclusive license agreement for Casɸ with UC Berkeley for R&D and commercialization.

By T. Chakraborty, Ph.D.

Genome editing technologies have been finding multiple uses in fields ranging from oncology to neurodegenerative, metabolic, and hematological diseases. CRISPR-Cas9 is one such platform that has revolutionized the field of genome editing. Although its discovery has been hailed as a game-changer, it is dependent on a single guide RNA, thus resulting in high off-target mutation rates, lack of precision editing, and faulty delivery of the CRISPR protein for in-vivo applications.

Now, a novel Casɸ system discovered in the labs of UC Berkeley researchers, Jill Banfield and Jennifer Doudna, might provide solutions to those drawbacks. With half the molecular weight as compared to Cas9 and exceptional target recognition capabilities compared to other CRISPR-Cas proteins, Casɸ offers advantages for further development in genome editing. On August 12th, Mammoth Biosciences Inc., one of the first companies to use CRISPR-based platforms for disease detection, announced an exclusive license agreement for Casɸ with UC Berkeley for R&D and commercialization in all fields.

Peter Nell, CBO of Mammoth Biosciences, stated that “With its compact size, about half of Cas9, and potential diverse targeting ability due to flexible PAM sites along with potential high-fidelity editing, Casɸ may offer solutions to these challenges for both ex-vivo and in-vivo applications. The team at Mammoth Biosciences is extremely excited by this opportunity and has already started to further advance this new family of enzymes.”[1]



As in the case of Cas proteins, which are typically identified in microbes, the family of Casɸ proteins was first identified in bacteriophages. It shares a <7% amino acid identity with other type V CRISPR-Cas proteins. A recently published research paper in Science highlights the trans-cleavage activity of Casɸ which is only observed on DNA recognition in cis can be beneficial for broader nucleic acid detection as previously demonstrated for other Cas proteins [2]. The hypercompact size of the Casɸ makes it vulnerable for further research purposes and may help create new functionalities for genomic editing.

Lucas Harrington, CSO and co-founder of Mammoth Biosciences, said, “In addition to the published work, Mammoth’s world-class genome editing team has continued to build on the Casɸ platform to unlock features that make this system uniquely suited to address key clinical applications.”[1]

Trevor Martin, CEO, and Co-Founder, said that the addition of Casɸ to Mammoth Bioscience’s already established protein discovery platform is a huge boon for the company. “One of the key advantages of our CRISPR-based platform is its breadth and diversity of capability — a characteristic that’s crucial for having the right tool for any challenge. With the addition of Casɸ to our CRISPR toolkit, we’re able to further expand our capabilities to an even wider range of applications across editing and diagnostics.”[1]

Mammoth Biosciences is co-founded by Jennifer Doudna, Trevor Martin, Janice Chen, and Lucas Harrington. It aims to discover and develop novel CRISPR systems by utilizing its in-house proprietary platform’s full potential. As a startup which has been in operation for only three years, the company has made great strides and named one of the recipients of the 2020 CB Insights 150 Most Innovative Digital Startup List and secured contract with National Institute of Health (NIH) for scaling their high throughput CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic platform [3].

Editor: Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.

Related Article: Spotlight: New Hypercompact Megaphage Cas Enzyme (CasΦ) Shows Efficient Gene Editing



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