Top 10 Biotech IPOs & How to Get to Mars - 2021.02.19

Plus: Company updates in synthetic biology.

☀️ Good morning.

In the initial phase of the process [...] the scientist works through imagination, as does the artist. Only later, when critical testing and experimentation come into play, does science diverge from art. - François Jacob (translated from French).

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📰 Bioengineering in the News

I wish I could engineer my metabolism.

MARS WITHIN REACH: Perseverance made it to Mars. But for humans to do the same, we will need biotechnology; this article takes a look at European companies developing technologies that will help heal astronauts, grow food and produce clean oxygen. Link

GENE THERAPY TRIALS HALTED: Bluebird bio has halted a gene therapy trial for sickle cell disease after two patients developed cancer. ScienceLink (Also covered by Fierce Biotech.)

ORDER YOUR FUNGUS: A company called Nature’s Fynd is taking pre-orders for their cream cheese and “meatless” breakfast patties made from a fungus found in Yellowstone National Park. Adventurous! Tech Crunch. Link

PINK PINEAPPLES: Del Monte, the large food distributor, is selling a pink pineapple. But is it just for clicks-’n-giggles? Grow by Ginkgo. Link

TOP 10 BIOTECH IPOs: The biggest initial public offering, in 2020, came from a little known Canadian company called AbCellera Biologics. Fierce Biotech.Link

SYNTHETIC WOOD: MIT researchers grew “wood-like plant tissues” in their laboratory, using living cells extracted from the leaves of a plant called Zinnia elegans. Wired. Link

AMERICAN MICROBES: Farmers have traditionally relied on chemistry—pesticides and fertilizer—to grow healthy crops in a changing climate. Soon, though, farmers may turn to microbes for the same. Link

ANCIENT MAMMOTHS: Scientists have shattered the record for “oldest DNA ever sequenced;” a 1.6 million year-old mammoth. Ars Technica. Link (Also covered by The New York Times, Nature and Science.)

ISRAELI RESEARCH CENTER: The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya has launched a synthetic biology research center. Dr. Yuval Dorfan is the director. Press release. Link

BIOTECH FIGHTS HUNGER: Engineered crops, synthetic pesticides, nutrient-laden rice: synthetic biology has done a lot to fight hunger. Its next challenge will be to end hunger in a sustainable, equitable way. SynBioBeta. Link

CRISPR ETHICS: An intriguing opinion piece, in Scientific American, takes a fresh look at an old question: When should CRISPR be used on people? Scientific American. Link

GMO SALMON BAN: Some large food companies have banned GMO salmon before they even enter the market. The Counter. Link

THE CRISPR APP: New software, called DECODR, can help sift through large DNA sequence datasets after a CRISPR-editing experiment and identify off-target effects. Press Release. Link

HANNA GREY FELLOWS: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced the 2020 Hanna Grey Fellows. The 21 awardees each receive eight years of research support. A couple synthetic biologists made the list. HHMI Press Release. Link

More (Weird) Stories…

ALLERGIC TO RESEARCH: Some researchers are developing allergies to their test subjects. Spooky. Undark. Link

GLOWING MAMMAL: Springhares—a type of rodent native to Africa—are fluorescent under UV light. The New York Times. Link

💳Industry Updates

Press releases…what are they good for?

ERS Genomics (co-owned by Emmanuele Charpentier) and ZeClinics have signed a non-exclusive license for the use of the former company’s CRISPR patent portfolio. ZeClinics conducts pre-clinical testing with a zebrafish model, using the organism to assess “the safety, efficacy and biomedical relevance of new compounds.” Business Wire. Link

Evolve BioSystems, a Davis, Ca. based company developing probiotics to “restore the infant gut microbiome,” has received investment from Cargill and Manna Tree as part of their Series D funding round. It is a “first close” in what will be a $55 million round. PR Newswire. Link

Evox Therapeutics, an Oxford, UK based company using exosomes to deliver therapeutics, raised £69.2 in a series C funding round. PR Newswire. Link

Excision BioTherapeutics, a San Francisco, Ca. based developer of CRISPR anti-virals, raised $60 million in financing. The funds will support the company’s clinical development of a potential HIV cure. Globe Newswire. Link

Gamida Cell, a Boston, Ma. based company developing cell therapies for blood cancers, has raised $75 million through the sale of senior notes to Highbridge Capital Management. Biospace. Link

Jazz Pharmaceuticals acquired GW Pharmaceuticals for €6 billion this month. The latter was the first company to gain market approval for a “natural cannabis plant derivative”—a treatment for multiple sclerosis—in any country. A feature story on this, in Link

Microvi, based in Union City, Ca., has been awarded $1.12 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a machine learning platform “to predict optimal microorganisms for a given water treatment application…” PR Newswire. Link

Molecular Templates, an Austin, Tx. based clinical-stage company developing “immunotoxins” that can destroy cancer cells, signed a deal with Bristol Myers Squibb to develop new oncology therapies. The agreement could be worth up to $1.3 billion. Biospace. Link

New Age Meats, a Berkeley, Ca. based company developing both cultivated and plant-grown meats, raised another $2 million in a seed round of funding. SynBioBeta. Link

Novartis has teamed up with the Gates Foundation to support research that will—hopefully—culminate in a “one-and-done” cure for sickle cell disease. Fierce Biotech. Link

Until next time,

— Niko

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Thanks for reading Cell Crunch, part of Bioeconomy.XYZ. If you enjoy this newsletter, please share it with a friend or colleague. A version of these newsletters is also posted on Medium. Reach me with tips and feedback on Twitter @NikoMcCarty or via email.