Locus Biosciences, developer of a next-generation CRISPR/Cas platform for precision antimicrobials, has closed $19 million in Series A funding designed to fund the company through filing its first Investigational New Drug (IND), as well as a subsequent first-in-human trial.
A spinout of North Carolina State University (NCSU) founded in 2015, Locus Biosciences designs and creates novel CRISPR RNAs or “smart bombs” designed to kill antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” by irreversibly destroying the bacterial DNA.
Locus says it is the only company that uses CRISPR/Cas3 to kill targeted pathogens, such as Clostridium difficile, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacteriaceae—rather than with Cas9 as used by Paris-based Eligo Bioscience, which on September 26 said it closed on $20 million in Series A financing from Khosla Ventures and Seventure Partners, including a $2 million award from the Worldwide Innovation Challenge.
As a result, Locus steers clear of the bitter legal battle over who invented Cas9, now the subject of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit case appealing a February 15 decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board February 15 decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).
“Other companies are developing CRISPR applications to modify the human genome, but we are concentrating our efforts on removing deadly pathogens from the body,” Paul Garofolo, Locus’ founder and CEO, said in a statement. “As our technology targets antibiotic-resistant infections without risk to human cells, we can rapidly develop new infectious disease and microbiome therapies that avoid the risks posed by broad-spectrum antibiotics and their selection for antibiotic resistance.”
Locus says its platform is built on prokaryotic technology for prokaryotic targets and designed to enable the design and development of powerful antimicrobials that avoid currently known antibiotic resistance mechanisms while leaving nontarget bacteria unharmed.
That platform, Locus says, is being advanced to create therapeutics for critical disease areas ranging from resistant bacterial infections to the microbiome.
Locus is based in Research Triangle Park, NC.
ARTIS Ventures led the investment round, with additional financing from institutional investors that included Chinese Internet services provider Tencent Holdings, Abstract Ventures, and the state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
The Series A financing comes four months after Locus closed on a $5 million convertible note to support the development of CRISPR/Cas3 antimicrobial therapeutics. Financing for the note was led by Tencent and joined by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
Locus’ co-founders include the company’s CSO and chairman of its scientific advisors Rodolphe Barrangou, Ph.D., MBA, the Todd R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Scholar in Probiotics Research and associate professor of food, bioprocessing, and nutrition Sciences at NCSU. On Monday, Dr. Barrangou was appointed editor-in-chief of The CRISPR Journal, an international, multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal to be launched in 2018 by GEN publisher Mary Ann Liebert Inc.