A startup that wants to start using a controversial gene-editing tool in people by 2017 just filed to go public

Editas CEO Katrine Bosley
Editas CEO Katrine Bosley Editas CEO Katrine Bosley

A gene-editing company that hopes to start using a controversial new gene-editing technique — which has so far only been tested in animals and non-viable human embryos — in people by 2017 just filed to go public.

Editas Medicine, a startup based in Cambridge, Massachusetts to study CRISPR, will trade under the ticker $EDIT, according to a filing on Monday.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool that allows scientists to swap a particular, potentially faulty gene with another, potentially healthy one. So far, the technology hasn’t been used in people (except in non-viable human embryos), meaning Editas’ 2017 trial would be a first.

Editas was founded in part by Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang, two of the first developers of the CRISPR technology. In August, it raised $120 million from investors including Bill Gates to fund research.

Editas has said before that it plans to start its research on a rare eye disorder called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). The condition mainly affects the retina, a layer at the back of the eyeball that picks up light and sends that info to the brain, where it’s translated into images. Starting at infancy, people with LCA have a hard time seeing anything other than large, bright shapes.

NOW WATCH: Watch science writer Carl Zimmer explain CRISPR in 90 seconds