Company: Caribou Biosciences
Not everyone just out of grad school ends up in the CEO chair at an emerging company, but that’s exactly where 26-year-old Rachel Haurwitz landed at Caribou BioSciences.
Since Haurwitz and colleagues formed Caribou in 2011, it’s been a wild ride for the CEO, who’s helped the Berkeley, CA-based biotech raise millions in venture funding as it sets out to reshape a myriad of industries.
As a prominent player in the up-and-coming CRISPR-Cas gene editing field, Caribou believes “that any market with bio-based products will be transformed” by the tech, including therapeutics treatments, agriculture, basic research and industrial biotechnology.
Haurwitz has been “hooked” on science since middle school, a passion formed by a visit to a marine biology lab with her family. Since that trip, she’s gone on to earn an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied under a prominent CRISPR-Cas9 researcher, Jennifer Doudna.
She went on to form Caribou with Doudna and others, and the biotech so far has raised more than $40 million dollars in venture funding.
“I owe a huge amount to my cofounders for giving me this phenomenal opportunity in the first place, to have the chance to lead and build this company,” Haurwitz said. “They really took a big bet on me as a first time entrepreneur, as someone fresh out of a Ph.D. program, to entrust with such a tremendous opportunity.”
As she puts it, a “healthy dose of naiveté, thrown in with exuberance and excitement around the opportunity,” has helped her grow Caribou and its prospects along the way.
In the day-to-day operations of the business, Haurwitz said she leads by trying to listen more than she talks and by giving her team “the tools and the space they need to individually thrive within the organization.”
“I really look forward to the company continuing to evolve and mature, and start to see some of those early technology breakthroughs turn into real commercial products that directly impact our community,” she said, “whether it’s a new type of crop for food or a new therapeutic treating previously untreatable diseases.”
To make CRISPR-Cas gene editing more of a commercial reality, the company intends to rely on partnerships, licensing, spinoffs as well as internal development projects, Haurwitz said. To that point, Haurwitz serves on the board of Caribou spinoff Intellia, which has partnered with Novartis to develop new cell therapies with the tech. Caribou also recently inked a partnership with U.K.’s Genus PLC to apply the science in livestock species.