AbbVie abandons a pioneering CRISPR R&D alliance with Editas as Brent Saunders' deal is cast out
A little more than 3 years ago Allergan paid $90 million in a cash upfront to partner with gene editing player Editas on a CRISPR alliance focused on the eye. The lead program centered on LCA10, a rare, inherited retinal degenerative disease that appears in childhood and leads to blindness.
Allergan then went to AbbVie $ABBV in a buyout, and the pharma giant has no interest in moving forward on the gene editing front. The company punted it all back to Editas Thursday, with the biotech $EDIT noting in a statement after the market closed Thursday that it is regaining all rights for its ocular medicines, including EDIT-101.
Editas CEO Cynthia Collins says she’s “pleased” to get the programs back unencumbered. She added:
“We are currently focused on advancing EDIT-101 with dosing resumed in the Phase 1/2 BRILLIANCE clinical trial. We remain on track to complete dosing of the adult low-dose cohort and to dose at least one patient of the adult mid-dose cohort by the end of this year. We look forward to sharing additional updates from BRILLIANCE clinical trial and other medicines in development in our ocular program later this year.”
The biotech’s stock, which had jumped 13% during regular trading hours Thursday, immediately turned south and dropped 11% after the bell.
This is a high-profile pioneering clinical effort. Back in March Editas and Allergan spotlighted the first use of CRISPR in an in vivo human subject, the first time researchers had used the technology to edit a cell — rather than doing the editing ex-vivo and then return cells to the subject.
But Allergan CEO Brent Saunders never got much credit for his R&D deals, as enthusiastic as he was about them. AbbVie’s big interest was amping up revenue from the legendary Botox franchise, not breaking new ground with CRISPR.