Investing & Startups| September 12, 2018
Inscripta Acquires Solana As It Accelerates Commercialization Drive
Genome editing company, Inscripta has announced the acquisition of life sciences firm, Solana Biosciences, in a move meant to accelerate the commercialization of its suite of gene-editing technologies.
In a statement, Inscripta Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Ness said the addition of Solana, which was founded by former Illumina staff, would bring “world-class scientific product development, manufacturing, and operations experience to further enable Inscripta to provide the best gene-editing tools to both commercial and academic researchers.”
The AgFunder website defines gene editing as a process of altering a species’ genetic characteristics without introducing any foreign DNA.
Inscripta expands operations with Solana acquisition
With the acquisition of Solana, Inscripta said it had assembled an elite, life-sciences product development and manufacturing pipeline for precision gene editing.
Following the deal, Inscripta will now open an office in San Diego, a life sciences hub, as it expands operations. Tom Rosso, Solana’s co-founder and a former vice president of operations at Illumina, will become the vice president of operations at Inscripta following the takeover.
With his new role, Rosso will lead process development, technology transfer, manufacturing and operations teams at Inscripta.
Rosso said, as Solana, they were “excited to join a team of top scientists and developers at Inscripta to further empower researchers in the emerging gene-editing field. Together, our team will design, build, and commercialize a new suite of tools that will revolutionize life sciences.”
Inscripta did not disclose any financial information surrounding the acquisition of Solana.
Inscripta’s unique business model
In its business model, Inscripta, which was formerly known a Muse Bio, sells gene-editing tools and enzymes, instruments, reagents, and software with improved capabilities for multiple genome-editing applications, the AgFunder news website said.
To market its technology tools, Inscripta developed CRISPR enzymes (MADzymes), which it gives away for free to academic and commercial researchers and for research and development purposes.
The company then charges for the reselling of the CRISPR enzyme for some high-value applications, and for custom enzyme development. Inscripta said this allows genome editing of living cells to be simple, efficient, and robust.
“This unique approach was the first step in the company’s path to re-shape forward genome engineering and make it more accessible for the research and commercial community,” Inscripta said.
Inscripta said the name for its enzymes – MADzymes – is inspired by the biological diversity found on the island of Madagascar.
Solana acquisition strategic for commercialization drive
At the end of February, Inscripta raised $55.5 million in a Series C financing round for the commercialization of its gene-editing technology tools and the acquisition of Solana could be indicative of the latter’s strategic thrust.
The money was meant for Inscripta to “expand its research capabilities and strengthen its internal team of high-performing research experts.”
The financing round was led by Merieux Developpement and Paladin Capital Group, with existing investors Venrock, Foresite, Spruce, and NanoDimension also participating.
In June, Inscripta received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office covering systems using MAD7, the company’s first free CRISPR enzyme, as well as patent coverage for systems using another MADzyme, MAD2.
The enzymes were first announced in December 2017, when the company revealed that these would be fully available for commercial and academic researchers without either up-front licensing fees or “reach-through royalties” on products made or research done using the technology. Inscripta also released data from external partners showing that MAD7 can edit mammalian cells.
The company said the data confirmed “the potential for using MADzymes in human therapeutic and diagnostic applications, as well as biological development and manufacturing in a wide array of cell lines.”
Solana was founded in 2017 by former Illumina employees. In a statement, Inscripta said Solana staff had “successfully built adaptable and scalable manufacturing operations, enabling the rapid growth of innovative products that today represent billions of dollars in annual revenue.”
Inscripta said the Solana team had overseen the launch and production of hundreds of products – including market-leading DNA sequencing solutions.
John Stuelpnagel, chairman of Inscripta’s board of directors, and co-founder and first chief executive officer of Illumina, said with the acquisition of Solana, he was confident that Inscripta “will fundamentally transform genome writing.”
Stuelpnagel said Solana would bring “unparalleled expertise and experience to Inscripta, helping the company grow, diversify, and scale its operations to meet the rapidly advancing needs of the gene-editing industry.”