Cyrus Biotechnology has teamed up with the Broad Institute to optimize CRISPR for use in humans. Feng Zhang, who had a hand in developing CRISPR, will serve as the Broad’s principal investigator for the collaboration.
One concern with using CRISPR-Cas9 to perform in vivo genome editing stems from the risk that the body will mount an immune response against the system. Those concerns have grown as researchers have shown that many people have antibodies against Cas9, reflecting the fact that the homologs of the protein used in genome editing systems are derived from bacteria that commonly infect people.
Cyrus, which lists Johnson & Johnson among its customers, thinks its technology can mitigate the risk of an immune reaction. That confidence reflects Cyrus’ experience of using software to identify and work around the epitopes in protein therapeutics that cause immunogenicity.
“We have validated our computational deimmunization platform in a variety of systems, and now seek to apply it where it can make a major impact. Given the extensive therapeutic possibilities of CRISPR systems, and the leading position the Broad Institute and Dr. Zhang hold, we are very excited to work in partnership with them to make these molecules more amenable for use in humans with maximal efficacy and minimal side effects,” Cyrus CEO Dr. Lucas Nivón said in a statement.
Partnering with the Broad will allow Cyrus to combine its experience of deimmunization with the skills of researchers who helped put CRISPR on the map. Zhang, the Broad’s lead on the project, was at the forefront of efforts to optimize Cas9 for use in human cells.
The partners plan to publish their research and make the fruits of their collaboration available to the nonprofit and academic research community for free.