EvoNexus PortCo, CRISPR QC: Transforming Agriculture Through Gene Editing Innovation
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES / DECEMBER 29TH, 2023 / CRISPR QC, led by CEO Ross Bundy, is a powerful and impactful tool in gene editing with its technologies designed for analyzing and optimizing CRISPR gene editing results. Balancing academic exploration and commercial viability, Bundy’s team focuses on consistency and precise control.
CRISPR QC provides clarity and insights into gene editing by quantifying risks, ensuring consistency and offering real-time data interpretation through their analytics platform. The company’s commitment to affordability and accessibility in gene therapies reflects its dedication to not only advancing therapeutic medicine but also leading advances in sustainable agriculture.
The biggest barrier
The most apparent and largest barrier to accessibility is cost. The expensive nature of most gene editing technologies makes them accessible only to giant agriculture companies with large pocketbooks.
“Only a few major players, around four, wield considerable influence; these companies dominate the entire Ag sector,” Bundy said.
The CEO explains that smaller companies find it challenging to invest in the necessary innovations to make their methods more efficient, creating a significant barrier to entry into the gene editing space. Ironically, the burden of innovation is on smaller companies, and when they perform well, the larger ones swoop in and acquire them.
“There needs to be a shift toward more inclusive practices so that advancements in gene editing are accessible to a broader range of stakeholders to foster more diversification and innovation in the Ag sector,” Bundy added.
Interestingly, the companies that can afford present gene editing technologies are still prone to use “brute-force approaches.”
“Rather than investing in effective, proven technologies like CRISPR QC that they can afford, they will attempt tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of edits in the hope of achieving success. It’s like throwing many darts at a dartboard, expecting that eventually, one edit will yield the desired result,” Bundy explained.
Other barriers to gene therapy advancements in agriculture
Recent advancements in gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR-Cas9 and CRISPR QC, have introduced a more precise and efficient approach to modifying the genetic makeup of crops and livestock.
However, there are still several barriers.
“Although gene editing has advanced quite a bit, Ag has to first unwind many inefficient practices. Because of that, the Ag sector has probably missed out on some of those innovations.” Bundy added. “They’re still using older artisanal methods (labor-intensive, and time-consuming processes), but they also have much more complex biology to work with because animals and plants are actually in some ways more complicated than humans.”
Regulatory challenges around genetically modified organism (GMO) crops, where new genes are introduced, have led to significant interest in gene editing technology in Ag. With gene editing, where they only remove a sequence, the result would be a crop that could also have been made through the ancient practice of selective breeding, but with significantly greater speed and precision.
“The opportunity in Ag for gene editing is enormous, as smaller companies or regional players could make crops that address localized challenges and not need a GMO regulatory process. Yet the artisanal nature of working with CRISPR is still a major barrier for those companies to compete with the big Ag players,” Bundy said.
“Public perception and acceptance also play a dynamic role in shaping the trajectory of gene editing in agriculture, with varying opinions on safety, ethics and environmental consequences influencing the overall pace of adoption,” the CEO added.
CRISPR-edited crops and livestock are not considered GMOs. This distinct classification shields them from the stigmas commonly associated with GMOs.
Bananas, greens and tomatoes
“We’re not targeting the big guys; we’re creating their disruptors, so to speak,” Bundy says.
One smaller Ag innovator is using CRISPR QC to enhance the longevity of bananas in the supply chain by editing their genes to inhibit browning. This increases their shelf life and has a positive effect on the climate because of the decrease in the amount of biomass waste from brown discarded bananas that turn into greenhouse gasses.
“By enabling smaller Ag companies, who often have a better understanding of regional agricultural needs, Small Ag has a better chance of launching products that compete favorably with big Ag companies.”
The value of CRISPR technology lies in its capacity for precise gene editing, which resembles a selective breeding process on an accelerated scale. “CRISPR enables scientists to expedite species evolution by bypassing multiple generations,” the CEO said.
Consider the amount of apples on store shelves that weren’t there 20 years ago. “And the value of CRISPR is, instead of going through generations, you can shortcut that whole process and engineer that species to change much more quickly. So they are just cutting through multiple generations.” Bundy said. “The goal is to not get labeled GMO, not get regulated, but introduce a feature that makes that plant valuable and sellable at the grocery store.”
“There is one small Ag company that has a chance of being bought by ‘Big’ agriculture. They’re using CRISPR QC to edit mustard greens. They taste terrible but have the highest vitamin value of any leafy green, so they’re editing that terrible taste out. So now they’re more marketable on the shelf.”
A team in England has used CRISPR QC gene editing technology to develop a tomato, which has much more vitamin D than the average one, providing people in less sunny regions with a food source against the use of pills. Another group of researchers in Japan is trying to enrich tomatoes with GABA protein to lower the blood pressure of its aging population.
CRISPR QC affords these small companies, who are using finesse and precision instead of brute force, to develop agricultural solutions that are specific and essential to regional needs versus solutions that are broad and global.
Bundy admits that cells are very complicated, and experiments done outside living organisms (in vitro) have limitations in mimicking what happens inside a cell (in vivo). However, CRISPR QC’s technology is exceptional because it allows agriculture researchers to understand and precisely control variables within cells.
“The advantage of in vitro is the ability to deeply understand specific variables. There could be hundreds of things going on that result in a precise gene edit which will never be known with brute force gene edit methods, so the power of what we offer is to deeply understand every gear, knob, and lever of CRISPR so that organisms can be engineered rather than just guessing,” Bundy explained.
CRISPR QC’s technology uses chip-based analysis to sift through complex data efficiently. Even though other verticals have inspired CRISPR QC’s technology, it has the potential to make important advancements in agriculture.
CRISPR QC’s technology can provide valuable insights and precision in the gene editing of life-sustaining crops and livestock. By speeding up innovations in agriculture, CRISPR QC hopes to contribute significantly to increasing sustainability and food security in the agriculture industry and world.
According to Bundy, CRISPR QC’s overarching mission is to democratize gene editing by lowering costs, saving time and fostering accessibility across all industries. The goal is to empower diverse industries to have greater control over the gene editing process, ultimately making a meaningful impact on global challenges.
“The idea that we can carefully and precisely control the genome of an organism opens up endless possibilities with respect to medicine, food sustainability and climate change; that is the promise of CRISPR. Our vision is to empower others with the precise control required, allowing for the rapid development of these solutions,” Bundy added.
About CRISPR QC
CRISPR QC was created to assist scientists in gene therapy and agtech companies to advance their science and bring products to market quicker by providing predictive insights and quality control metrics.
We recognize the limitations of older technologies in providing practical, effective, and timely information for optimizing and resolving issues in CRISPR editing. To address this, we have developed our CRISPR Analytics Platform with the unique capabilities of CRISPR-Chip and through deliberate collaboration with CRISPR experts. Learn more about CRISPR QC and its groundbreaking advancements in the biotech sector at crisprqc.com.
EvoNexus is California’s leading nonprofit technology startup incubator located in San Diego. EvoNexus has successfully incubated over 260 startups with a survival rate of over 85%. Since the incubator’s formation in 2010, EvoNexus companies have secured over $1.6B in venture funding, $10B in pre-exit valuation, and had 51 acquisitions valued at over $2.1B. EvoNexus is supported by corporate partners, including some of the largest multinational corporations in the world. Learn more at evonexus.org.