Allergan is jumping into the CRISPR business.
The biotech struck a deal to partner with CRISPR/Cas9 leader Editas $EDIT on up to five programs aimed at curing eye diseases. And the package includes Editas’ lead program for Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA10), which is currently wrapping preclinical research with an eye to moving into the clinic in possibly the first human CRISPR study in the US.
Editas is bagging $90 million upfront for this deal, but the two new partners are keeping the milestones under wraps for now.
Editas recently won the latest round in a nasty scrap over patent rights to its CRISPR/Cas9 tech, squaring off against CRISPR Therapeutics and Intellia.
While it’s still very early days for CRISPR, the gene editing tech holds great promise, which is helping it sweep through academic circles and begin to inspire deals and startups, including Exonics, a spinout from the lab of UT Southwestern researcher Eric Olson. Using CRISPR/Cas9, researchers have been able to edit diseases out of genes in animals, offering a new approach to drug R&D, though we’re likely years away from any late-stage products.
Allergan $AGN has been an ambitious and prolific research partner as CEO Brent Saunders navigates his way through a slate of new deals each year. That focus includes a growing pipeline of experimental meds for eye diseases, with 20 different programs underway in the field. And Editas’ prospective once-and-done therapies could offer a groundbreaking new approach. Many of Saunders’ pacts, though, are tilted more toward mid- and late-stage development, making this preclinical deal a somewhat unusual play for the company.
“Allergan has long been a leader in advancing innovative therapies to treat eye diseases,” said Katrine Bosley, President and Chief Executive Officer, Editas Medicine. “Working together with Allergan through their Open Science R&D model significantly enhances our ability to develop genome editing medicines to help patients with serious eye diseases. This alliance is highly aligned with our strategy to build our company for the long-term and to realize the broad potential of our genome editing platform to treat serious diseases.”
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