CRISPR cas9: the future of gene editing
In 1931, Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ explored the idea of a future filled with genetically modified citizens. Nearly 90 years on, his vision is no longer a work of fiction, it’s a scientific reality. This reality is called CRISPR-Cas9 – the gene-editing tool with the potential to change the course of human history forever. Imagine a world where disease can be cured by using technology that alters our genetic makeup. This is the world that CRISPR cas9 is building, and it’s happening right now.
What’s so good about CRISPR cas9?
Gene editing isn’t a new concept. Scientists have been trying to find a way to successfully edit genes for decades. But they have always fallen at the same hurdle – their methods don’t work consistently.
What makes CRISPR cas9 so exciting is its precision. The world has never seen such accuracy when attempting to edit a gene before. This means that the technology works consistently. So, there is a real possibility that it can have multiple effective human applications.
These applications will include things such as curing genetic defects that cause disease, eliminating dangerous microbes, growing better crops and exterminating disease carrying pests. If achieved, the impact of these possibilities will be huge.
Current research is largely focussed on its application in single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis, haemophilia, and sickle-cell disease, but its possibilities are endless.
The CRISPR cas9 revolution is gathering momentum. As the technology is straightforward, it’s producing results faster and more cheaply than previous attempts in the field. This accessibility is allowing start-ups all over the world to use CRISPR-Cas9 for a variety of different purposes and goals. With even more possibilities available, this is only the beginning.
How does CRISPR cas9 work?
The process behind CRISPR cas9 is relatively straightforward. It is adapted from a naturally occurring gene editing system in bacteria that can be thought of as a method of genetic cut and paste. In the video below, one of the technologies inventors explains in more detail.
In biology, the bacterial system in question captures snippets of DNA from invading viruses. Then, if the virus attacks again, the bacteria can produce RNA segments which target the virus’ DNA and use the enzyme, Cas9, to cut the DNA apart. In effect, this disables the virus.
Understanding the bacterial gene editing system makes the application of CRISPR-Cas9 seem that much simpler. To make it even easier, we’ve laid out the key stages of the technology below:
- Highly trained scientists create an accurate piece of RNA that forms a complex with a Cas9 protein in a cell.
- The complex then naturally attaches to a matching genomic DNA sequence.
- The magic happens when the Cas9-RNA complex cuts the double strands of the DNA.
- The programmed DNA can be inserted at the cut and can potentially cure disease.
The future of CRISPR cas9?
CRISPR cas9 has the potential to drastically improve the lives of millions around the world. As a result, the wider market is experiencing a large amount of growth. The market has already grown substantially since its discovery in 2012, and the only place it’s going to go is up, with an estimated global market of more than $3 billion by 2023.
While the market is expected to grow rapidly, it will likely still be some time before we see wide scale human applications of the technology. And the companies working on developing ground-breaking applications of CRISPR cas9 face the same challenges other innovators are confronted by.
Raising the capital needed to bring a CRISPR product to market can be challenging. When projects have high capital requirements and long holding periods, traditional investors are uncomfortable manging the involved risk.
At FTL, we are different. We are a global private equity firm that specialises in funding the world’s most exciting and challenging projects. Unlike traditional investors, we are able to fund innovative technology companies in life sciences thanks to our experience in managing risk and structuring capital-intensive projects. Learn more about how we fund world changing companies here.
CRISPR-Cas9 has the power to change the world immeasurably and the most meaningful breakthrough for the technology is already on the horizon. It’s not often that a technology produces such a reaction in scientific circles, but CRISPR-Cas9 has done just that on a global scale. The excitement stems from the possibility that it offers, which is the possibility of a better future. CRISPR-Cas9 is here now, and it’s here to stay.