19 November 2019

New startup company to refine gene editing tool for diagnostics and treatment


A spin-out company from the University of Copenhagen called TwelveBIO has set out to improve CRISPR technology in diagnostics and treatment. The startup has been initiated by a grant awarded by Novo Seeds and The Bioinnovation Institute.

CRISPR is a technology that can be used to edit genes and, as such, will likely pave the way for biomedical breakthroughs in the future. The essence of CRISPR is simple: it’s a way of finding a specific bit of DNA inside a cell and alter the sequence of that piece of DNA.

Associate Professor Stefano Stella and Professor Guillermo Montoya from Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research at University of Copenhagen are frontrunners in finetuning the CRISPR-Cas12a editing tools or socalled ‘gene scissors´ and have decided to utilize their results to start a new company called TwelveBIO. Novo Seeds has awarded a pre-seed grant of 3.5 million DKK to the researchers for the project ‘Cas12a variants to diagnose and treat disease’. In addition, BII has awarded a Business Accelerator Academy grant of 0.25 million DKK to the project.

Remarkable research behind the business idea
TwelveBIO is named after the Cas12a enzyme that can be used as a gene editing tool and also has great potential for identification of biomarkers, such as pathogens and cancer mutations in clinical patient samples.

The idea behind the startup company comes from previous studies published in Cell and Nature. In these studies, Stefano Stella and co-authors in Guillermo Montoya’s laboratory, mapped out structural features of Cas12a in detail to explain how this enzyme recognizes and cleaves DNA.

“Cas12a is deemed by the research community to be the next generation editing tool thanks to its increased specificity compared to the Cas9 protein, which was the first CRISPR enzyme to be discovered in 2012” says Stefano Stella. “Cas12a was discovered in 2015 and was quickly recognized as a very precise editing tool. At the end of 2018, a new activity of the enzyme was discovered, paving the way for new exciting applications of this technology, such as identification of biomarkers for diagnostic purposes” he explains.

Business development at the BioInnovation Institute
TwelveBIO will be located at CPR and will employ four researchers for 12 months with the pre-seed grant from Novo Seeds. Meanwhile, business development of the startup will take place at BII, which is located at the nearby Copenhagen Bio Science Park (COBIS). “We are really excited about this opportunity to test our ideas and thankful for the support from Novo Seeds and BII to develop the Ca12a technology and the business strategy of TwelveBIO” says Stefano Stella.

Read more about TwelveBIO at www.twelve.bio 

Read more about The BioInnovation Institute here.

Read more about the Montoya group at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research here.      

Contact points

Professor Guillermo Montoya
Telephone: (+45) 51 32 45 81
E-mail: guillermo.montoya@cpr.ku.dk