BIOTECH 2: DESKTOP GENETICS

“Accuracy in the genetic field will be essential. Errors in testing could be disastrous.”

Craig Venter

OVERVIEW:


Healthcare may be moving into an era of personalised medicine, where medical products and treatments are tailored to each individual, based on their genetic code, rather than a one size fits all approach, leading to higher standards of care.
An example of personalised medicine in practice is genome editing based cell therapy, where the DNA in an individual’s cells is altered to treat or prevent disease.

Today we will be discussing translational medicine a highly interdisciplinary field which aims to coalesce assets of various natures in different fields to significantly improve the global healthcare system.

Enjoy!

 

PROBLEM + SOLUTION:


Genome editing has enormous potential in clinical use, but as research is ongoing into this field, acquiring the incredibly complex tools and substrates to conduct research is becoming increasingly difficult. Examples of these specific substrates might include particular enzymes or sequences of nucleic acids (DNA, RNA…) which are highly specialised and may vary between experiments in order to examine different functions and effects.

Frankly, there are too few experts in genome editing to meet the demand for laboratory setup for gene editing experiments, and the cost is preventatively high.

This is where Desktop Genetics come in. Desktop Genetics is an industry leader in providing genome editing technology to labs. Their award-winning flagship platform DeskGen AI sequences massive amounts of currently available data to help lab technicians design and order specialised equipment for each stage of their genome editing experiments.

By designing and building this AI platform Desktop Genetics have automated the process, making it cheaper and widening participation by facilitating research in this field.

 

THE SCIENCE:

It has long been a goal of scientists to be able to make precise, targeted changes to the genome of living cells.
CRISPR is a family of DNA sequences in bacteria, that have actually come from viruses that tried to attack the bacteria and have been incorporated into DNA.
Cas9 is a bacterial enzyme that separates foreign DNA strands and can completely induce breaks.

Together, a modified version of the CRISPR/Cas9 system can be used to edit genomes, by moving synthetic RNA into a cell, cutting the cell’s genome at the desired location and inserting the new genes.

The first human CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing trials are due to begin this year, with much of the pioneering research occurring in China. The first clinical trial is to investigate the prevention of cervical cancers by targeting and destroying the genes of HPV that cause tumour growth.

 

MARKET + COMPETITORS:

With investors recognising the potential of this innovative technology, the CRISPR Biotechnology market has received significant funding in recent years; there has been $300m in venture funding for CRISPR start-ups, with publicly traded companies having a $3bn market cap.

This investment is predicted to accelerate exponentially as the technology becomes more developed; the UK CRISPR/Cas9 market size is predicted to reach £10 bn by 2025, even though it is currently worth less than £1bn.

Within the sector, major companies such as CRISPR Therapeutics, Intella Therapeutics and Editas medicine are pursuing the production, development and distribution of certain kinds of CRISPR based treatments for human diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and 

lung disease. Many of these companies have entered into partnerships with larger pharmaceuticals worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Desktop Genetics fits into an excellent niche in providing a service to these larger companies. The company has the potential to earn significantly and profit from market growth without ever having to compete with the big industry players who are developing the drugs. Desktop Genetics has a first mover advantage, with no other companies in Europe or the US offering such a sophisticated product range.

 

BUSINESS/FINANCING:

The company has received about £5m in funding to date, most recently through equity crowdfunding on the online platform ‘Syndicate Room.’

Desktop Genetics is currently partnered with 1800 organisations all over the world, with a simple design and ordering service available on their website. Commerical customers pay a subscription fee, ensuring recurring revenues for Desktop Genetics. Their revenue is mostly dependent on research and growth in the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing sector.

 

WHO IS IN CHARGE:

Desktop Genetics was founded in 2012 by 3 graduates from the Cambridge MBE programme.
Riley Doyle, a Biochemist, as CEO.
Victor Dillard, a Chemical Engineer, as COO
Edward Perello, a molecular biologist, as CBO

All 3 have outstanding academic and career achievements and have grown desktop genetics from its’ inception.

DRIVERS OF GROWTH:

  1. Partnerships– Desktop Genetics has partnered with Illumina and Horizon Discovery, major industry players.
  2. Expansion of target market– the use of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing systems in the clinic will increase exponentially in the coming years.
  3. Relationships– Established working relationships with early movers and experimenters in this space.

 

INHIBITORS OF GROWTH:

  1. 

Viabilty– a recent paper recently showed that our immune systems may attack the Cas9 bacterial proteins due to the presence of antibodies, and this publication led to a significant drop in CRISPR Biotech share prices (note that the paper is yet to be peer-reviewed.)
  2. Cost squeezing– as the technology expands and clinical trials increase in number, incentives increase for the big industry players to move the laboratory prep stage in-house. Desktop Genetics will need to price competitively, which will remove some of its’ current profit margins.

 

ISAAC’S INTUITION:

Desktop Genetics is a well-run company with significant growth potential. If forthcoming trials show that CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can be used for human treatments, it is likely that Desktop Genetics will be integral in facilitating the progression to a more personalised healthcare system.

SUMMARY:

Concept: ★★★★★

Company finances: ★★★★

Competitive advantage: ★★★★

Final investor rating: ★★★★

 

 

Further Reading:

A recent interview I conducted with Victor Dillard, COO of Desktop Genetics

View story at Medium.com

Media response to the recent paper regarding immunity to CRISPR

An interesting article on investment opportunities created by expansion of CRISPR technology

 

Disclaimer:
1) This blog has been created using public information about DESKTOP GENETICS.
2) This is an opinion piece intended only for educational purposes, not as professional investment advice.
3) I can declare no conflicts of interest in the publication of this article.

 

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