In just the past nine months, venture capitalists have plunked down more than $200 million
in start-up companies developing an innovative gene-editing technology known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats). In 2014, MIT Technology Review
touted this gene-editing technology as “the biggest biotech discovery of the century.”
At the very least, CRISPR (more formally known as CRISP-Cas9) is the most important innovation in the synthetic biology space in nearly 30 years. Measured against any benchmark — such as the number of patents and scientific publications or the amount of government funding and private sector funding – interest in CRISPR has skyrocketed since 2013.
What CRISPR enables, say its proponents, is a quick, easy and effective way to edit the genes of any species – including humans. Other methods take months or years, while CRISPR speeds that time up to mere weeks. The ability to cut and splice genes so quickly and so precisely has potential applications for the ability to create new biofuels, materials, drugs and foods within much shorter time frames at a relatively low cost.