Nessan Bermingham is staying put.
The venture capital veteran is currently the CEO of Intellia Therapeutics, one of the three companies exploring how to apply the revolutionary CRISPR gene editing tool to medicine.
“I’m in, all in,” he told Business Insider.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool that that’s often described as a kind of genetic scissors. It allows scientists to cut out a faulty gene and swap in a healthy one — or at least that’s one way they’d like to use it in humans. (It’s nowhere near ready for clinical use.) Intellia, for example, is looking at what it can do for cancer treatments, and in diseases that affect the liver.
So, we had to ask: What if we discover a gene-editing tool that’s even better than CRISPR in a few months, the “next CRISPR” if you will?
That’s not too much of a concern for Bermingham, he said, although it is something he thinks about. When the company got underway, the team asked themselves that question and got to work running tests that would map out the perfect gene editing tool. For the most part, CRISPR-Cas9 checked off the boxes of what would be ideal.
“I think the question is not anymore the efficiency or the actual scissors,” Bermingham said.
That isn’t to say that the gene-editing tool is perfect. It can be improved, and tweaks are happening all the time. But there likely won’t be a big move to an entirely new system.
“In my mind now, where I think we’ll see the change and the significant step forward is going to be on double-stranded break repair,” he said. That’s the part of the gene-editing process where things can get a little less precise. “We have a pair of scissors that works really well. And we can tweak it; we know how to do that with protein modifications and engineering.”
That’s not to say that Bermingham isn’t keeping an eye on what else is happening outside the walls of Intellia’s labs. It’s just that for now, CRISPR is such a remarkable tool that the “next CRISPR” might actually just be a better version of what’s already being used.
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