Big Pharma Doubles Down on CRISPR for New Drugs

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| MIT Technology Review.

Bayer is just the latest big pharmaceutical company to launch a project to turn CRISPR into new medicines.

Can the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR help cure diseases? Drug companies are racing to find out.

A recently announced $300 million joint venture between Bayer AG and startup CRISPR Therapeutics—to develop new drugs for blood disorders, blindness, and congenital heart disease—is just the latest indication that the pharmaceutical industry is eager to find and develop new cures using CRISPR. But it’s far too early to grasp the full potential for CRISPR-based therapeutics, and much of the near-term focus will be on developing ways to deliver the gene-editing system to specific targets in the body.
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CRISPR Therapeutics is one of three high-profile startups—the others being Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics—aiming to use CRISPR to engineer new cures. All three are collaborating with or have garnered investments from larger drug-making companies, and the dealings over the past year have revealed broad disease areas where drugmakers see opportunities for applying the new tool.

In the near-term, CRISPR is attractive for use in experimental therapies, for certain genetic diseases or cancers, that entail removing cells from the body, modifying their DNA, and reintroducing them. But all three…

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