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CRISPR and the Precision Medicine Revolution

By Ursheet Parikh

Mammoth is poised to disrupt medical diagnostics

Precision medicine is one of today’s most significant healthcare trends, promising to replace our inefficient, one-size-fits-all approach to curing diseases with treatments personalized for each individual patient.

Over the last two years, precision medicine — and more broadly, the intersection of genomics and big data — has been an important investing theme for us at Mayfield. Qventus, for example, provides real-time operational guidance for complex and often-chaotic hospital environments like ICUs and emergency rooms. Another Mayfield company, Mission Bio, allows clinicians to map the DNA of a single cell with unprecedented speed and at a fraction of the previous cost.

This week, we’re proud to announce our latest — and one of our most exciting — precision medicine investments: Mammoth Biosciences.

Mammoth’s underlying technology is CRISPR, the gene-editing tool widely considered the most dramatic development in life sciences in many years. CRISPR allows clinicians to replace any particular DNA segment with a new one of their choosing; it’s often, and accurately, described as a kind of “search and replace” tool for genetic material.

Most of the buzz around CRISPR has been in the context of therapeutics; researchers envision it being put to use against a whole host of diseases. Mammoth, though, plans to take CRISPR into a different frontier: diagnostics.

Specifically, Mammoth uses AI-powered robotic screening to find DNA and RNA biomarkers for different disease conditions, and then programs its CRISPR-based detection platform to diagnose the disease. This approach works for a wide range of disorders, including STDs, Alzheimer’s, malaria, pneumonia, sepsis and many cancers. For some of these conditions, Mammoth will deliver simple, low costs tests that can be used in the home. For others, Mammoth will provide CRISPR-powered DNA/RNA detection platforms to third-party diagnostics companies.

Mammoth-powered consumer tests will be paper strips that develop specific color patterns when exposed to the patient’s blood, saliva or urine. People will snap a photo of the test, upload the results via an app, and get the result in about an hour. Test kits will be available at local pharmacies and retail stores, as well as online, making them far more convenient for patients than having to visit a lab and then wait several days for results. Given the low cost of paper strips and the extreme accuracy of its tests, Mammoth has the potential to disrupt the $45 billion a year diagnostics industry.

Mammoth was founded by a stellar team of scientist-entrepreneurs, including some of the original pioneers of CRISPR-based diagnostics. Cofounders include Trevor Martin and Ashley Tehranchi‚ both Genetics and Bioinformatics PhDs from Stanford, Janice Chen and Lucas Harrington, CRISPR PhDs from UC Berkeley, and CRISPR inventor Jennifer Doudna. Mayfield is delighted to be partnering with this extraordinary team, one that exemplifies the innovation, self-awareness, hustle, humility and sense of mission that we think are hallmarks of all successful founders.

Mammoth’s core technology has been thoroughly reviewed in leading journals such as Science and Nature. The company is the exclusive licensee of its CRISPR technology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Another reason we’re so excited about Mammoth is that the company’s breakthrough technology isn’t a single specific product, but rather, a platform that will allow it to produce and market scores of different product lines aimed at virtually the entire gamut of human pathologies. And having an inexpensive-to-produce yet highly-effective suite of tests built on proprietary intellectual property gives Mammoth a significant business-model advantage.

Diagnostics is the first step towards the digitization of an individual’s health. By greatly reducing the complexity and cost of diagnostics, Mammoth makes early diagnostics and precision medicine a reality for everyone.

CRISPR is a new technology, and more work will be needed before it achieves its full promise. But we believe it’s impossible to exaggerate its potential and the positive impact that Mammoth can make on people’s health and well-being.

Congratulations to the Mammoth team. We’re proud to begin this journey with you.


CRISPR and the Precision Medicine Revolution was originally published in Mayfield Viewpoints on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Published on Aug 1, 2018

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