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In a single year, Rodger Novak’s gene-editing startup raised $89 million in venture funding, got $105 million to enter a partnership with big drugmaker Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. -- and, this week, announced a deal with Bayer AG worth $335 million.

Crispr Therapeutics Ltd. won’t start human trials of its therapies until 2017, but the company is at the forefront of one of the hottest technologies in biotech. Investors and drugmakers from Johnson & Johnson to Merck & Co. are flocking to a potent tool called Crispr, saying its precise DNA editing capabilities could yield treatments for conditions as diverse as blood diseases, cancers, auto-immune disorders and genetic eye disorders.

Gene-editing companies have drawn more than $1 billion in venture dollars since 2013, according to Boston Consulting Group, from traditional biotech venture capitalists like Deerfield Management Co. and Polaris Partners, and names better known in in the tech world, such as Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures. Demand to participate in Crispr Therapeutics’ funding round was so strong that the company turned away some blue-chip investors, Novak said in an... see more