Earlier this year, Intellia Therapeutics became the second drugmaker using the landmark gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 to go public, after Editas Medicine. A third, CRISPR Therapeutics, could be on the way soon.
Now comes the hard part. Getting past the hype and making safe, effective medicines.
Over the past few decades, new drugmaking methods like gene therapy and RNA interference both made the leap from academic labs to the public markets. They’ve both subsequently gone through drug development roller coasters, highlighted by technical challenges, safety problems, and a few dark spots where investments all but dried up. Only now are two gene therapies approved, both in Europe. RNAi is still likely a few years away from its first approval, but yesterday’s setback at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY), which had to scrap a once-promising drug program due to safety problems, is the latest reminder of the uncertainy that goes into new drugmaking approaches.
CRISPR, by comparison, is in its relative infancy. The first clinical trial from a publicly traded CRISPR drug developer will likely begin next year. What can these companies learn from the ups and downs of RNAi and gene therapy? What’s different for them? What’s the best way for them to safely harness this promising, powerful, yet potentially dangerous technology?
We might get some clues on Oct. 20 at Xconomy’s latest version of Boston’s Life Science Disruptors at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. There, Intellia co-founder and CEO Nessan Bermingham, along with founding investor Jean-Francois Formela of Atlas Venture, will give attendees a candid look at these issues, and the other challenges ahead for Intellia and the CRISPR field. We’re tackling some additional topics as well, from the gender gap in life sciences with Terry McGuire of Polaris Partners and Vicki Sato of Harvard Business School, to new ways to improve preclinical drug testing with the story of startup company Emulate. Be sure to prepare some questions, because as always there’ll be some time for you to get in on the discussion and catch up with our speakers after the show.
You can get your tickets here.
Here is the full lineup of the speakers you can expect to see, and the agenda for the evening’s festivities. You can still save some cash if you register by Oct. 13. See you all at the Koch Institute in a few weeks.