Reliable Editing of the Code of Life
Sommersemester 2019 - Vectr
This Project has been conducted during the course "Technology Garage" at the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. The goal of the project was to find a suitable business model as well as provide the fundament for a very promising technology in gene editing. The following will provide a short overview of the main points of the project.
In gene editing, the so-called gene-scissor CRISPR/Cas9 has been discovered in recent years and although it has a tremendous potential, it has missed a reliable, safe and effective way of delivering the CRISPR to any cell. Our project partner Stanislav Indik has invented a new technology to tackle this problem using nanoshells - to enable such a superior delivery method, called Vectr. This technology laid path for the usage of CRISPR in the therapy of many genetic disorders, cancer types and other diseases.
As this new delivery method is very innovative compared to current methods, it was unclear what the advantages perceived by the customer would be and whether the market would be ready for such a technology. Even though the technical benefits of Vectr were clear, it was uncertain whether these superior qualities were already needed in the current phase of CRISPR research and delivery. An additional challenge was the licensing situation of CRISPR itself, as there are a few licensors worldwide which are all targeting different usage areas.
In the first step, we conducted a survey on the topic of current CRISPR delivery methods and how they are perceived by their users. This survey was conducted without mentioning the newly developed Vectr technology. In this phase and following telephone interviews it was furthermore evaluated whether these users are hindered in their research by the limitations of current technologies and delivery methods. Lastly, pharma companies were addressed to check on potential clinical trials and their current preparation including CRISPR usage.
On another track, all current CRISPR licensors have been contacted and asked for the range of their IP protection. Additionally, licensing models with their costs and conditions have been researched.
As a first result, the survey showed that current users experience some disadvantages of their current technology but have not ever thought of these limitations to be hindering futher research. Many researchers among the respondents would work with other cell types if there was a delivery method allowing this. We concluded and double-checked through direct interviews that Vectr would, when finally entering the market, be perceived as very helpful in CRISPR R&D. However, although Vectr comes at a significantly lower price than current tools for delivery, costs are not a relevant topic for most respondents. The first business model for Vectr to follow is the sale of units of Vectr to research institutions.
The second finding was that pharma companies are already in preparation of clinical trials with CRISPR application and hence are in need of a safe and reliable delivery method to increase its success rate. When researching further in this direction, we found out that licensing a technology to pharma companies is very common practice. Accordingly, the second business model suitable to Vectr is to enter into licensing agreements with pharma companies starting the clinical trial phase.
Finally, it could be evaluated that the European CRISPR licensor, ERS Geonomics, is the one in scope of Vectr. Possible licensing conditions have been worked out and an opening offer for the negotiation has been produced.
Stanislav Indik, PhD