J&J takes stake in Locus’ CRISPR-based ‘Pac-Man’ antimicrobials

Just over a yr after its first-round financing, CRISPR firm Locus Biosciences has signed up Johnson & Johnson as its first massive pharma accomplice and pocketed a $20 million upfront payment.

While most CRISPR firms are taking a look at making use of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing know-how to human illnesses, Locus is taking a special tack. It’s utilizing one other pathway—CRISPR-Cas3—to deal with the difficulty of rising resistance to the present antimicrobial armamentarium at a time when many firms have backed away from researching new medicine.

While nonetheless in the early levels of improvement, J&J should like what it has seen from Locus’ applications. Along with the $20 million upfront payment, the drugmaker is providing one other $798 million in milestones for CRISPR-Cas3 medicine focusing on two bacterial pathogens.


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When Locus raised $19 million in a series A towards the top of 2017, CEO Paul Garofolo likened the corporate’s know-how to Pac-Man, with the CRISPR medicine chewing up the goal micro organism’s DNA and inflicting cell dying, whereas leaving different micro organism in the microbiome unscathed.

Since then, the Research Triangle Park biotech has prolonged its know-how platform by shopping for EpiBiome’s discovery platform, permitting it to isolate characterize bacteriophages—a kind of virus that infects and destroys micro organism—extra quickly.

Phages are central to Locus’ therapeutic method as they’re extremely particular to the micro organism they infect, permitting CRISPR to be delivered solely to the goal pathogen. Once in the micro organism, the improved phage hijacks the mobile equipment to provide extra copies of itself to assist eradicate the an infection.

The firm’s take care of J&J’s Janssen Pharma unit facilities on the event of CRISPR-Cas3-engineered phage (crPhage) medicine towards bacterial pathogens “in the microbiome of the lungs and other organ systems in the context of diagnosed microbiome dysbiosis”—in different phrases the place a traditional healthy microbiome inhabitants is disturbed permitting disease-causing micro organism to realize a foothold.

The particular identification of the pathogens hasn’t been divulged, however Locus’ present pipeline contains crPhage medicine to deal with Escherichia coli urinary tract infections, recurrent Clostridium difficile infections, Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lungs and Enterobacteriaceae. This is regarded as the primary massive pharma collaboration to advance a bacteriophage remedy into the clinic.

“Our collaboration with Janssen…reflects the importance of the crPhage platform and its potential to revolutionize the treatment of disease and extend human life,” stated Garofolo.

“Our platform is uniquely positioned to selectively eradicate pathogenic bacteria of choice while preserving an otherwise healthy microbiome in patients, and this collaboration with Janssen will enable us to further develop products on the platform to help patients in need around the world.”

Another CRISPR specialist with antimicrobial medicine in its sights, Eligo Bioscience, raised $20 million in a collection A in September 2017 however is specializing in the CRISPR-Cas9 system.

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