An illustration of a CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing protein cutting a DNA helix
Credit: Design Cells/Getty Images

Non-profit health system ChristianaCare, with hospitals and health facilities in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, announced today that it has spun out CorriXR Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that will leverage CRISPR gene editing technology to develop oncology therapeutics, with an initial focus on squamous cell carcinoma of the lung.

The new company, which has received $5 million in seed funding from ChristianaCare Ventures and Brookhaven Bio, will leverage its inherent ties to ChristianaCare and the ChristianaCare Gene Editing Institute in the development of patient-centered precision oncology therapeutics.

According to Janice E. Nevin, MD, ChristianaCare’s president and CEO, the new company “has an enormous opportunity to use the incredible power of gene editing to revolutionize patient care by delivering faster and more accurate diagnoses, targeting treatments and preventing genetic disorders.”

The spinout, via the Gene Editing Institute, has already developed a unique set of CRISPS/Cas gene editing tools capable of disabling the genomes of a tumor cell while leaving intact the genomes of surrounding healthy cell, which allows for precise target selectively.

The CorriXR Therapeutics launch team is led by Eric B. Kmiec, PhD, chief executive officer, and Brian Longstreet, chief operating officer. Kmiec is also the executive director and chief scientific officer of the ChristianaCare Gene Editing Institute, a post he has held since 2014. Under his leadership, the Institute announced in the CRISPR Journal in 2018 development of the first CRISPR gene-editing tool to allow DNA repairs outside the human cell.

This “cell-free” technology uses a protein called Cpf1 or Cas12a, that allows researchers to make multiple edits to DNA samples quickly and more precisely in vitro—a capability that could lead to the development of different CRISPR tools that could produce breakthrough treatments for a wide range of diseases by repairing a damaged gene, modifying it or deleting it entirely.

“CorriXR Therapeutics is the next phase of the Gene Editing Institute’s evolution and impact as an incubator for groundbreaking technology in a patient-first approach to research,” said Kmiec. “The novel way we are using CRISPR-directed gene editing technology in solid tumors, beginning with a hard-to-treat form of lung cancer, has enormous promise as a treatment option to improve the lives of people with life-threatening disease.”

The CorriXR launch follows ChristianaCare’s restructuring of its Gene Editing Institute into a wholly owned subsidiary, which positions it to advance research to develop therapies using CRISPR gene editing technology and to fast-track discoveries for commercial application.

Other advances from the Gene Editing Institute include the development of the ExACT pathway of single-stranded DNA repair, which increased the on-target efficacy of CRISPR while reducing the number of off-target edits to other areas of the genome. Its researchers created CRISPR in a Box, an educational toolkit to teach gene editing and DECODR, an analytical tool to understand the diversity of genetic outcomes of gene editing. Bot CRISPR in a Box and DECODR will benefit from the new, more independent structure of the Gene Editing Institute.

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