September 20, 2016

Synthego Announces First-of-its-kind CRISPR Kit

Synthego CEO, Paul Dabrowski
Synthego CEO, Paul Dabrowski.

Synthego, the stealthy genome engineering startup, has announced its release of the world’s first single guide RNA (sgRNA) kit for use in CRISPR/Cas9 editing. The kit is one of several CRISPR genome editing products in the company’s flagship portfolio, known as CRISPRevolution, that was debuted in August of this year.

The importance of the kits within the larger scope of CRISPR genome editing was emphasized by Synthego CEO Paul Dabrowski in his comments on the announcement. “Our kits make world-class genome engineering tools accessible to all scientists,” he said. “They accelerate research and adoption of CRISPR to help make it a standard lab technique. By drastically reducing the time to begin a CRISPR experiment with our rapid turnaround, improving gene editing quality and consistency, and bringing the cost down, we’re closing the gap between CRISPR’s full potential and what’s possible in the lab today.”

Closing the gap between reality and potential

CRISPR/Cas9 is widely acknowledged to be the biggest advancement in genetic engineering technology in recent history. CRISPR’s “full potential” to which Dabrowski refers means a new era of achievement in synthetic biology and disease treatment, enabled by the technology’s ability to remove and replace segments of the genome.

However, since the discovery of CRISPR/Cas9 in 2005, there have been several practical barriers to its implementation. Some of these limitations are related to the fact that the CRISPR editing technique relies on short strands of synthetic RNA to guide the Cas9 protein—which is responsible for cutting out the desired DNA fragment—to the appropriate segment of DNA.  Production of this custom-sequence guide RNA (gRNA) has previously been expensive, time consuming, and often lacked the precision and purity required to achieve high success rates CRISPR/Cas9 assays.

Synthego’s ability to bring the EZ sgRNA Kit to market owes to their automated and scalable RNA production process, which can generate custom strands of RNA in less than half the time and at a fifth of the cost of existing processes. Furthermore, the company claims that the superior quality of the sgRNA in their kit enables up to 90% efficiency at lopping out the targeted segments of DNA.

Earlier this summer, the first clinical trial of CRISPR genome engineering technologies was approved by an advisory committee at the National Institute of Health. The trial will engage CRISPR to facilitate cellular immunotherapy for certain types of cancer. With CRISPR already being extensively used in laboratories across the world, Synthego’s kit promises to accelerate what they and others have rightfully deemed an already-underway revolution in gene editing and disease treatment.

Test-drivers of the kit provide rave reviews

Synthego reports that their EZ sgRNA Kit is already in use by dozens of industry organizations and research institutions. One such test-driver of the kit is the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, where CRISPR/Cas9 is being used to develop a cure for pediatric hemoglobinopathies and immune deficiency diseases. Researchers at the institute have great praise for Synthego’s kit and the role it is playing in their work.

“Our research requires reagents that have the highest stability, efficiency and consistency,” commented postdoctoral fellow Michelle Christian. “Preliminary testing with Synthego’s sgRNA allows us to achieve very high editing efficiencies of up to 90 percent, which is extraordinary compared to the 20 percent we have been seeing with other reagents. In addition, the low cost and fast turnaround makes it cost-effective and feasible for rapid screening of guide RNAs.”

Researchers in Dr. Nipam Patel’s lab at U.C. Berkeley are also dispatching Synthego’s kit in their experiments.  Erin Jarvis, a PhD candidate in Evolutionary Development Biology noted that her success rates with the kit have been much higher compared to traditional methods. “So far, every crustacean embryo I’ve checked has been transformed,” she said. “You can’t get much better than that.”

The EZ sgRNA Kit comes with a pricetag of $295 and includes sgRNA, Tris-EDTA buffer, and nuclease-free water. For an additional fee, Cas9 protein is available as an add-on to the kit.

Images of transgenic Parhyale hawaiensis, a crustacean to which researchers are applying Synthego’s sgRNA kit, from the Patel lab at U.C. Berkeley. Image by Mike Perry.

Images of transgenic Parhyale hawaiensis, a crustacean to which researchers are applying
Synthego’s sgRNA kit, from the Patel lab at U.C. Berkeley. Image by Mike Perry.

The past, present, and future of Synthego

Synthego is a relatively young startup making a big splash in the world of synthetic biology. The company was incorporated in 2012 and closed an $8.3 million Series A fundraising round the following year in 2013. Since then, several small private funding agreements have extended Synthego’s runway.

Now that they have launched their CRISPRevolution product line, CEO Paul Dabrowski has previously stated that another fundraising round should be expected in the fall of 2016.  However, the company isn’t revealing any details about its goals for this future round.

We have several products in the pipeline as well as new partnerships coming online, and investors have been very interested in what we’ve created,” said Dabrowski.  “However we aren’t able to publicly disclose anything yet.”

We await whatever it is that Synthego is keeping under wraps with much anticipation.