This week, Genus plc and Caribou Biosciences, Inc. announced a multi-year strategic collaboration. As part of the collaboration, Genus will receive a worldwide, exclusive license to Caribou’s leading CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology platform in certain livestock species. The partnership marks the largest technology-driven alliance that Genus has made to date, and positions Caribou at the forefront of an emerging market for which CRISPR-Cas9 could have profound benefits to animal welfare and society.
“We are delighted to have entered into this collaboration with Genus, a leader in the animal genetics industry. We look forward to working collaboratively with Genus to apply our CRISPR-Cas9 technology platform to help improve animal health,” said Dr. Rachel Haurwitz, President and Chief Executive Officer of Caribou. “We believe this partnership validates our leadership in the CRISPR-Cas technology field and exemplifies a key component of our strategy to work with world-class partners who are aligned with our vision to deploy the technology in responsible and ethical ways to solve important problems in healthcare, agriculture, and industrial biotechnology. Genus is clearly such a partner.”
The companies will collaborate during a four-year research program, funded by Genus. The program will look into further development and optimization of Genus’ Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (“PRRSv”) resistant pigs, the discovery of which was announced by Genus in December 2015.
The agreement gives Genus exclusive access to Caribou’s market-leading CRISPR-Cas9 technology, which allows precise changes to be made in the genome of an animal without introducing genetic material from another organism, for the development of new traits in pigs, cattle and potentially other livestock species.
In the case of the PRRSv resistant pigs, a small change can be made to inactivate a single pig gene that produces a protein, known as CD163, which the PRRS virus requires for infection to occur. The gene editing technology used to create protection from PRRSv does not involve transplanting genes from one species to another.
“This latest investment into genome editing ensures Genus will remain at the forefront of the development and application of technology to support the well-being of livestock. Caribou’s CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing platform and its unique skills are significant to Genus as they provide the capabilities necessary to achieve the next stage of our PRRSv and other gene editing pipeline programs,” said Dr. Jonathan Lightner, Chief Scientific Officer and Head of R&D of Genus. “This relationship will enable new and exciting research opportunities that will strengthen and accelerate Genus’ gene editing capabilities. We look forward to working closely with the Caribou team.”