Swiss SynBio adds CRISPR to its Toolkit for new Specialty Chemicals

crispr evolva synbio europe charpentier

Evolva is licensing the CRISPR patents of Emmanuelle Charpentier, in a deal with holding company ERS Genomics. This will grant access to the wonder gene-editing technology for one of the most important players in European SynBio.

Headquartered in Switzerland, Evolva develops new ways to obtain ingredients and specialty chemicals with brewing and engineered microorganisms. Its products range from nootkatone, a grapefruit aroma that could help stop the spread of Zika, to agricultural bioactives and components of next-generation materials.

Evolva’s future portfolio is likely to get a major boost, as the Biotech is adding CRISPR to its toolkit. The Biotech has struck a deal with Dublin-based ERS Genomics for a worldwide non-exclusive license of CRISPR, but it hasn’t disclosed financial details. The focus of the deal is the engineering yeast and fungi for production of ingredients in Evolva’s current business areas.

For CRISPR applications, the spotlight is undoubtedly in its potential role as a therapy. Based on Emmanuelle Charpentier’s patents, CRISPR Therapeutics has attracted both a lot of investor’s money and big collaborations, even if its recent IPO underperformed. Outside of the hype of CRISPR for human genome editing, ERS Genomics manages Charpentier’s intellectual property in CRISPR-Cas9. And CEO Eric Rhodes cites industrial biotechnology, such as Evolva, as a growing and important part of ERS Genomics’ business.

Figure 1: The timeline and players of CRISPR research, which would later into a fragmented space for CRISPR licensing.

A well-known licensee of ERS Genomics is Bayer, which struck the deal in May and is interested not only in health applications, but also in plant engineering. More recently, Monsanto has also licensed CRISPR, but from the MIT/Broad Institute. This news was met with a bit of “what, only now?”. For example, competitor DuPont has had its hands on CRISPR for more than one year, with a deal with Caribou Biosciences, based on Jennifer Doudna’s patents.

For the industrial biotechnology space, however, Evolva may be ahead of the game. So far, its competitors in SynBio, like California-based Amyris, have not announced licensing CRISPR.

Feature Image Credit: C2.0 James Case
Figure 1 Credit: NCSU, DuPont, UC Berkeley, MPI, MIT & Harvard


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