A $ 1 Billion Bet on CRISPR Gene Editing by a 30-year-old Female Founder

Janice Chen (C) and her Mammoth Biosciences co-founders Trevor Martin (L) and Lucas Harrington (R). Co-founder and Nobel Prize-winning Jennifer Doudna, a pioneer editor of the CRISPR gene.

Along Highway 101 north of San Francisco Airport, a breakout biotechnology startup named Mammoth Bioscience, co-founded in 2018 by Naisanchen’s sister Janice, is rapidly in the innovative arena of CRISPR technology. It is rising.

Not as well-known as Jennifer Doudna, the gold-medalized ice-skating brother or co-founder of Mammoth, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for CRISPR research, but Chen’s bioscience research in gene editing technology is medical. It is at the forefront of discovery. From identification of bacterial and viral infections to early detection of cancer.

CRISPR, or short, clustered, regularly spaced palindrome repeats, effectively cleave the genome and slice the DNA to treat genetic disorders.

Outside of a close circle of colleagues, few knew that Nathan was her brother until Nathan posted an excited post about him on social media. gold medal Victory when the family watched a match aired from their home in San Francisco. Chen remembers spending time with his family in Seoul four years ago and watching him compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. During the break, she was busy contacting a lawyer and starting her preparation process. society.

Since the 2020 pandemic, biotechnology start-ups have accelerated rapidly, with Bayer winning about $ 100 million in contracts with Vertex Pharmaceuticals and government grants, starting with 30 employees. We have increased it to 130 and employ at least 55 people. Venture deals in September last year, including Amazon, renowned Silicon Valley VC company Mayfield, and Apple’s Tim Cook, surged to $ 1 billion from $ 150 million.

As Chen sees, an exit strategy is not an acquisition.

“Our intention is not to build and sell it, but to become a $ 100 billion company with next-generation CRISPR technology. There are so many opportunities for creative construction, discovered by gene editing. There are new technologies, “Chen said. Identifying the business strategy meant that I needed to get out of the lab and expand the company, “said working remotely during Covid, but now at the company’s Brisbane, CA headquarters. Chen, who is back in, added. The shaped signboard stands out.

Salt Lake City’s roots, Silicon Valley growth

Raised as one of five siblings in Salt Lake City (Nathan, 22 years old is the youngest), her parents, an immigrant from China in 1988, said, “We have reached our potential, It will be the best for us. ” Chen learned to play the violin, participated in chess tournaments, and excels in her dance performance. She said she “learned how to lose and win” at chess competitions where she is often the youngest and only woman. “”

She discovered her passion for bioscience in her father’s small biotechnology business in Utah.

To relieve the stress of scaling up mammoth bioscience, Chen recently started running on the San Francisco hills near his home. She read “The Founder’s Dilemma” and quickly responded to her administrative challenges. The advice of an executive coach who decided “what kind of leader I want to be”. Try and learn and try to be part of your corporate ecosystem. “

Mammoth Biosciences builds on the core technology that Chen worked on at Doudna’s University of California, Berkeley. Chen earned his PhD as a graduate researcher in this hotbed of innovation.

As a mentor, Doudna encouraged Chen to start his own business upon graduation rather than working for a major biotechnology company. Internship at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and HIV Institute in Durban, South Africa.

“She is the leader of the technology team, with deep scientific knowledge and creativity, and an overall strategist who can see where this technology is heading,” said a lab at the University of California, Berkeley in biomedicine. Doudna said he was immersed in an ongoing patent dispute over his ownership. The US Patent and Trademark Office recently decided to support the Broad Institute, a partnership between MIT and Harvard University. This decision affects the licenses of some CRISPR companies, but does not apply to the specific gene editing system used by Mammoth Biosciences. Doudna is also the co-founder of Intellia Therapeutics, a publicly traded CRISPR company.

At the age of 26, shortly after graduation, Chen started a company with student and lab researcher Lucas Harrington and set up a store in a biotechnology incubator in San Francisco’s up-and-coming Dogpatch district. “Janis and I spent some time working in the lab, prototyping, and marketing venture capitalists,” Harrington recalls. Her husband, a San Francisco scientist I met at Johns Hopkins, is dedicated to starting the game, saying “I understand the journey.” -Change the company. “Now it’s my life,” she said.

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Through their connection with Doudna, they met Mayfield’s partner, Archeth Parik. Parik advised Trevor Martin, a PhD graduate from Stanford University, to set up a diagnostic testing startup. Venture investors brought together Martin, Doudna, Harrington and Chen, and the team formed Mammoth Biosciences. Is the CEO, Harrington is the Chief Science Officer, Doudna is the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Group, and Chen is the CTO.

“She is a multifaceted person and obviously a genius,” said Parik of Mayfield, a director and serial investor of her company.

VC investment in gene editing reaches billions

Since 2014, CRISPR startups have raised $ 3 billion in venture capital, according to Chris Dokomajilar, founder and CEO of biopharmacy database company DealForma. The startup has raised $ 265 million in four rounds of funding from at least 15 VC firms and angel investors.

During the 2020 pandemic, the company’s operations expanded rapidly. Of the companies that have been granted $ 249 million for rapid Covid-19 testing by the National Institutes of Health, the company has expanded its patented DetectR testing for commercial laboratories diagnosing viruses. GSK Consumer Healthcare in Warren, NJ is creating handheld devices that can perform rapid diagnostic tests for coronavirus. In addition, Mammoth Biosciences worked with Agilent Technologies in Santa Clara in early 2021 to develop a CRISPR test system for lab expansion and expansion. Speeds up the detection of coronavirus disease.

“She has an unusual skill set to conceptualize the future, and what this technology brings to humanity,” said Hirschpatel, another investor who is co-founder and managing director of Wireframe Ventures. Can you do it? ” Commercial technology product. It’s a big leap from the lab. ”

Boston’s Vertex Pharmaceuticals will pay $ 41 million to startups to expand their cell and gene therapy tools, which could result in $ 650 million in loyalty. Bayer AG in Berlin will donate $ 40 million to Mammoth Biosciences, focusing on testing and treating liver disease, with potential loyalty of $ 1 billion. In addition, in January of this year, the FDA granted the company an emergency use authorization for CRISPR-based molecular diagnostic tests for coronavirus.

Performance has tested Chen’s strength as an innovator and business leader, but investors say she’s not upset. “I never sell my stock. I give it to my kids. The company has a huge amount of IP,” said Omri Amirav-Drory, general partner of NFX, an investor and advisor venture. “.

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