Caribou Bioscience co-founder and CEO Rachel Haurwitz joined us onstage at Disrupt this morning to help unpack some of the myriad complexities around her company’s pioneering work in the field of CRISPR biology. The gene editing tool has been the source of tremendous excitement over the last several years for its potential to help science hack everything from disease to food supply.
But along with all of that potential comes some key questions around ethics and a protracted legal battle around precisely who invented — and therefore owns the rights to — the technology. Caribou is one of the key groups claiming to have a place in that invention, courtesy of the pioneering work by Haurwitz’s co-founder Jennifer Doudna, who played a key role in helping to develop the technologies around CRISPR early in the process.
CRISPR works by essentially serving a part of “molecular scissors,” in Haurwitz’s words, using a protein called Cas9 to edit genes. The work of Caribou and other CRISPR-centric companies is still very much in the early stages, but the potential of the technology is enormous.