A very large private funding round just caught my eye. Caribou Biosciences, an early stage company developing CRISPR-based therapies for cancer, just raised $115 million in a Series C venture round. Caribou is a company I have been tracking for years. That’s largely because it was co founded by Jennifer Doudna. If we remember, Doudna was one of two scientists who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last October for her research on CRISPR technology. And what I love about Caribou is that it is taking on much more challenging problems than the early companies working on CRISPR-based therapies. The first-generation CRISPR companies have been focused on diseases caused by a single genetic mutation. They use CRISPR to simply correct that one mutation, thus curing the disease. It’s a simplification, but I think of these diseases as the “low-hanging fruit.”
That’s not meant to be a knock on their work. It’s very smart for the first CRISPR companies to tackle diseases that are well understood and caused by a single mutation. They are easier to fix. And the industry needs some early victories to generate even more excitement and investment into genetic editing companies. That said, CRISPR technology has advanced tremendously over the last three years. And it’s gotten to the point where Caribou is using it to develop CAR T therapies for cancer.
These therapies are much more complex, and nobody working in the CAR T space has really cracked the code yet. Early CAR T therapies demonstrated some limited efficacy without any major breakthroughs. So these are big undertakings. Caribou’s lead therapy targets non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It recently advanced into Phase 1 clinical trials. And the company’s second therapy, which is progressing toward preclinical trials, targets multiple myeloma. Caribou is developing these therapies for patients who have undergone traditional cancer treatments without much success.
The company’s goal is to cure cancer for these patients using next-generation CRISPR technology. It’s a great story and an exciting venture. What’s more, pharmaceutical giant AbbVie just engaged in a partnership with Caribou. Per the deal, AbbVie will pay Caribou $40 million upfront to use its CRISPR genetic editing and cell therapy technologies. And AbbVie has committed to paying up to $300 million in future milestone payments as the therapies it develops using Caribou’s technology progress.
This is very bullish for Caribou. And the big payday will help power Caribou’s lead therapy through the clinical trial process. So this is absolutely a company to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Caribou go public within the next 12–18 months. Once it does, the company will make a fantastic investment target at the right valuation.
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