Mammoth Biosciences, a startup that launched three years ago to bring CRISPR technology to diagnostics and then later expanded its scope to therapeutics, has unveiled $195 million in financing that enables the company to press forward on both fronts.
The financing is actually two rounds: a $150 million Series D round that Mammoth announced Thursday, which follows a previously unannounced $45 million Series C round that closed in late 2020. The total sum boosts South San Francisco-based Mammoth into the status of a unicorn—a company with a valuation of $1 billion or more.
So why didn’t Mammoth get around to announcing the Series C round when it happened? Trevor Martin, Mammoth’s co-founder and CEO, noted that Covid-19 has kept the company busy in the past year. Mammoth has been developing a coronavirus diagnostic, building on the infectious diseases research the company had done previously. A little more than a year ago, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Mammoth Covid-19 diagnostic in laboratory settings.
Mammoth is based on the research of company co-founder Jennifer Doudna, a University of California, Berkeley scientist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year for her work in CRISPR. The Mammoth diagnostic works by using a CRISPR protein to home in on a DNA target. Once it finds its target, the protein acts as a “molecular shredder,” cutting it away so that it can be detected.
Martin said Mammoth is developing a test that offers the accuracy of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostics, but in a shorter time and without the temperature changes required of the PCR process. The goal is a room temperature test that produces results in less than 30 minutes. Mammoth is working with GlaxoSmithKline in a partnership focused on developing the testing technology into a smaller, handheld form that would make it usable outside of laboratory settings.
“We want to basically take the type of molecular testing that right now is confined to labs and bring that to offices, workplaces, and of course the home,” Martin said.
On the therapeutics side, the Mammoth aims to use CRISPR to achieve genetic cures. The company’s research is focusing on two CRISPR proteins, Cas 14 and CasPhi. Both are smaller than the more widely known Cas9 protein, a feature that is important for the company’s plans to develop CRISPR therapies that edit genes in vivo, or inside the patient. The smaller size of Cas14 allows for greater capacity to carry additional cargo as part of the therapy. Martin said it’s too early to discuss specific diseases that the company aims to treat. But he offered central nervous system disorders as an example of the kind of diseases that pose drug delivery challenges, and where Cas14’s smaller size offers an advantage.
Since Mammoth’s Series B financing in January 2020, the company has grown from about 30 employees to more than 110 today. Martin said the latest financing will support plans to expand the therapeutic team and invest in the therapeutic pipeline, which has advanced into preclinical research. Going forward, some of that work could be continued under partnerships with larger companies that have the expertise to more quickly bring these therapies into clinical development, he said.
The Series D financing was led by Redmile Group and included participation from Foresite Capital, Senator Investment Group, Sixth Street, Mayfield, Decheng Capital, and NFX. Redmile also led the Series C financing, which also included Redmile and Foresite, as well as other earlier investors, including the now disclosed Amazon.
Photo by Mammoth Biosciences