Gene editing techniques at Christiana Care Health System have been proven to cut cancer diagnosis times in half and are being commercialized for worldwide use.
Christiana Care received a $1 million Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) grant just over a year ago to try to reduce the time it takes Israeli biopharma company Novellus DX to make a cancer diagnosis.
Dr. Eric Kmiec is Director of the Gene Editing Institute at Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center.
He says his technique using gene editing scissors called CRISPR reduces the diagnostic time from about two weeks to less than one.
“They had been using a method to alter genes that’s kind of old-fashioned. It was actually developed in the 1980s, but it’s still a staple in the molecular biology cancer research community,” said Kmiec.
Kmiec’s technique uses CRISPR to recreate genetic cancer mutations in a tumor onto a chip outside of the actual cell. The replica mutations can then be put through the rest of the diagnostic process to determine the best cancer treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration put a halt to early-phase trials from gene editing company CRISPR Therapeutics to treat sickle cell disease earlier this year.
Kmiec says he’s glad to see his use of the microscopic scissors is being put into commercial practice.
“We actually have a partner and as we develop it they just incorporate it into something someone is already buying, so we know it’s credible on both ends. So that’s a big piece,” he said.
Christiana Care gave the licensing to Kmiec’s technique to Novellus DX who must pay a fee to Christiana each time it is used.
Novellus DX’s diagnostic method is already commercialized worldwide. It’s now learning how to implement Kmiec’s technique into the process.
Kmiec says he estimates the company will be using his technique by the end of the year.