Genome-editing company CRISPR Therapeutics filed for a $90 million initial public offering on Friday, making it the latest biotech planning to sell shares to a public that is entranced with the possibilities of changing the human genome to treat and even cure disease.
In its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Switzerland-based company (which also has a large facility in Cambridge, Mass.) included the usual caveats about how its technology might never work, might never receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and might never make money.
It also disclosed that developing CRISPR for therapeutic uses is a good way to lose piles of money, at least initially: The company reported an operating loss of $25.7 million in 2015 and that pace has only accelerated. It lost another $28.2 million in the first half of this year.
The scientific cofounder of CRISPR Therapeutics is Emmanuelle Charpentier, who, with biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, got the CRISPR system to edit DNA in a test tube in 2012. When they and their institutions were not awarded the key CRISPR patent in 2014, it triggered an ugly fight that has run up legal bills of more than $20 million.
CRISPR Therapeutics’s SEC filing also provides a glimpse at its scientific priorities. The company is working on early-stage treatments for hemophilia; a metabolic disorder called Hurler syndrome; and severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as “bubble boy disease.”
The company had previously disclosed gene-editing projects targeting sickle cell disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and the rare blood disorder beta-thalessemia. CRISPR Therapeutics also has ambitions to treat cancer.
CRISPR Therapeutics got started in 2012 as a three-person company called Inception Genomics. It has since raised nearly $200 million from venture capitalists and grown to employ 77 people. Last year, the company signed a $75 million agreement with biotech giant Vertex (VRTX) Pharmaceuticals. It has also partnered with Bayer (BAYRY) on a 50-50 joint venture focused on blood disorders, blindness, and heart disease.
The company plans to sell its shares on the Nasdaq exchange.