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Israeli Government Extends CRISPR-IL Consortium With $14.5M in New Funding

NEW YORK – The CRISPR-IL consortium, an Israel government-funded group of companies and research institutes to develop artificial intelligence technologies to improve the accuracy and efficiency of gene editing, has been extended by 18 months until June 2023.

While the Israel Innovation Authority, which is funding CRISPR-IL, did not make a direct announcement, two companies disclosed their participation in this second round.

The IIA has committed about NIS 45 million ($14.5 million), according to computational biology firm Evogene. Eyal Emmanuel, VP of new directions for Evogene, chairs the CRISPR-IL consortium.

CRISPR-IL launched in June 2020 with a budget of NIS 40 million to cover 18 months of operations. At the time, the IIA announced an option to extend the program for an additional 18 months.

The consortium is tasked with developing and validating an AI system called Go-Genome to support multispecies genome editing applications in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and aquaculture. 

The initial phase produced a version of Go-Genome that enabled the design of several thousand pieces of guide RNA for gene editing experiments, according to Rehovot, Israel-based Evogene. In phase 2, the consortium seeks to improve AI learning to refine Go-Genome's editing specificity.

"We are delighted to be continuing our important research in one of the forefront areas of innovation: the [merger] of computational power and genetics," Emmanuel said in a statement. "The approval of the second period of the consortium by the IIA is a vote of confidence in the Israeli research community and is a recognition of the importance of CRISPR-IL's work."

He said that this funding opens up the possibility of Evogene taking unspecified "new commercial directions."

Pluristem Therapeutics, a biotechnology company based in Haifa, said Wednesday that it has been awarded a NIS 1.8 million ($580,000) grant under CRISPR-IL to continue its previous work on developing a new generation of placental expanded cells.

"The IIA's continued investment in Pluristem's participation in this work provides further opportunity to push forward the development of next-generation allogeneic cell therapies," CEO Yaky Yanay said. "We continue to believe that the integration of CRISPR technology in our PLX platform holds great potential to develop the treatments of the future, and the IIA's approval of additional funds is validation of that belief.”

Other consortium participants include NRGene.

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