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Most guests on “Close to the Edge” are CEOs of companies in the biotech space, but Episode 11 features a slight exception: George Church, PhD, of Harvard Medical School has not only been a cutting-edge researcher for more than four decades, but also a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded more than three dozen companies, in fields that include genomics, gene editing, gene therapy, organoids, synthetic biology, and de-extinction.
On “Close to the Edge,” Church discusses the scope and scale of his famed lab, some of its current areas of research, and whether any of its numerous projects are being pursued despite an apparent lack of commercial potential.
Church also explains the drive that has prompted him to partner with others in co-founding 38 companies spun out from his lab to commercialize discoveries, many of which he discusses during our interview. They include:
- Colossal Laboratories and Biosciences, launched in September with $15 million in seed funding and a mission of de-extinction for the woolly mammoth and preservation of endangered Asian elephants
- Dyno Therapeutics, a developer of AI-based adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapy that launched potentially multi-billion-dollar collaborations with two biopharma giants, Novartis and Sarepta Therapeutics.
- Editas Medicine, a developer of genome editing therapies which Church co-founded with CRISPR pioneer and Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna, PhD, among others.
- eGenesis Bio, which focuses on “xenotransplantation”—creating human-compatible organs through its multiplexed gene editing platform.
- GRO Biosciences (GRObio), which recently raised $25 million towards its goal of developing protein therapeutics using an expanded amino-acid alphabet. The company’s co-founders first connected with Church as postdoctoral students working in his lab.
Later on, Church offers his take on some of the ongoing challenges in molecular biology, including gene therapy dosing as well as CRISPR and other gene editing technologies. He concludes the interview by sharing his major hopes and goals for the next five to 10 years.
Church is a pioneer of genomics with numerous accomplishments in the areas of genome mapping, sequencing, editing, and writing. Since 1986, Church has been on the faculty at Harvard, where he is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and a founding member of the Wyss Institute, for which he oversees the directed evolution of molecules, polymers, and whole genomes to create new tools with applications in regenerative medicine and bio-production of chemicals.