Five listed companies that are working with CRISPR

CRISPR/cas9 could change the world, but how do you invest in the technology? Here are five publicly listed companies that are working with CRISPR.

Article updated: 31 December 2020 2:00pm Author: Michael Baxter

CRISPR stands for clustered regulated interspaced short palindromic repeats. CRISPR is a form of DNA that has probably existed for hundreds of millions of years — it plays a key role in defence system of prokaryotes. If you are interested, prokaryotes are the oldest form of living organism and include bacteria and archaea.  

So CRISPR itself is not new, and researchers have known about it since the late 1980s. But in 2012, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier studied a form of CRISPR that involves a protein called cas9. Their research has made it possible to create technology to precisely edit DNA. Doudna and Charpentier won the Nobel prize for their efforts. Some think that CRISPS/cas9 will be the single most important discovery of the 21st century.

Among the potential applications of CRISPR/cas9 is the technology to defeat cancer finally, cure all genetic diseases, revolutionise agriculture production, and eventually design babies. Who knows, maybe one day reverse ageing.

Vladimir Putin says that gene editing is more dangerous than the nuclear bomb.

CRISPR/cas9 is a big deal. I like to play a game sometimes. We know who the companies are today that have gone from small valuations to hundreds of billions. But which companies will make the next generation of wonder stocks — the next Tesla or Amazon? As Niels Bohr said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future!”

But what we can do is have a go. We might not be able to predict the future, but if we keep our guesses broad enough, we might get it partly right.

One of my predictions is that CRISPR/ cas9 will be incredibly important technology, and some companies that work with it will emerge as very large companies indeed. I am not sure what those companies are, but here are five that are working with CRISPR/cas9 at the moment. One of them at least may make it to the big time — although, one on my list is already a very large company. 

They are: 

Intellia Therapeutics

The company has been developing gene-editing technology for the treatment of transthyretin amyloidosis. Recently, the company’s CEO Carlos Heras-Palou said: “Only a few short years ago, there were no treatments available for this devastating disease. Now, a cure for ATTR utilising the groundbreaking CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology may be within reach.”

Novartis

Back in 2008, Intellia Therapeutics agreed a deal with pharmaceutical giant, saying  “Novartis will have the right to develop CRISPR/Cas9-based products for one or more targets using these stem cells.”

Novartis has been working with Intellia Therapeutics to develop a CAR-T cell therapy for cancer. CAR-T  is technology in which cells are artificially modified for use in immunotherapy. 

Editas Medicine 

The company says: “Our mission and commitment is to harness the power and potential of CRISPR gene editing to develop a robust pipeline of medicines for people living with serious diseases around the world. Our goal is to discover, develop, manufacture, and commercialise transformative, durable genomic medicines for many diseases.” 

CRISPR Therapeutics 

Maybe this company scores over the others in one fundamental way; the company name is more search engine friendly. The company does what its company name says it does — I believe there is an expression involving doing what it says on the tin that describes it.

But the company also boasts a rather important co-founder, Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, herself.

Bluebird Bio

The company focuses on gene addition therapy, immunotherapy and gene editing. The company says: “We are focused-on homing endonuclease and megaTAL gene-editing technologies in a variety of potential applications and disease areas. Reprogrammed homing endonucleases and megaTALs are novel enzymes that provide a highly specific and efficient way to potentially treat a variety of diseases by silencing, editing or inserting genetic components into a cell.”

Conclusion 

Investing in new technologies such as CRISPR/cas9 is high risk. It is nigh on impossible to correctly guess which companies will make it. 

But I would say it’s a numbers game. Pick a number of companies, do your research carefully, but even then don’t invest what you can’t afford to lose and be very patient. 

For more on CRISPR/cas see this report from ARK invest.


These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of The Share Centre, its officers and employees.

Michael Baxter portrait photo
Michael Baxter

Economics Commentator

Michael is an economics, investment and technology writer, known for his entertaining style. He has previously been a full-time investor, founder of a technology company which was floated on the NASDAQ, and a director of a PR company specialising in IT.

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