CRISPR pays to partner with ViaCyte on an off-the-shelf gene-editing approach to curing diabetes

ViaCyte has been developing a line of pancreatic cells out of stem cells, looking for a regenerative medicine approach to treating Type 1 diabetes. 

But there’s a big drawback. These cells are seen by the immune system as foreign, so in order for it to work, diabetics’ immune system has to be suppressed — with obvious potential for harm. 

Samarth Kulkarni

Now, CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP, one of the leaders in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing with a big interest in regenerative medicine, is stepping in to use their immune-evasive tech to create a new line of cells that can do the job without kicking in the rejection response.

It’s the same basic approach that CRISPR Therapeutics is already using for an allogeneic — off-the-shelf — approach to CAR-T, says CEO Samarth Kulkarni. And he’s willing to pay a considerable amount for a collaboration.

In the deal he’s handing over $15 million upfront and an additional $10 million as a convertible promissory note offered under “certain circumstances.”

The two companies are now partnering on the development of an allogeneic program that they plan to jointly commercialize.

The last we heard from Kulkarni the biotech was explaining that an IND for a sickle cell program they have with Vertex was put on hold. 

“We believe the combination of regenerative medicine and gene editing has the potential to offer durable, curative therapies to patients in many different diseases, including common chronic disorders like insulin-requiring diabetes.” noted Kulkarni. “ViaCyte is a pioneer in the regenerative medicine field, and has built a compelling clinical program, robust manufacturing capabilities, and assembled a strong intellectual property position.  Partnering with ViaCyte will allow us to accelerate our efforts in regenerative medicine, an area that we believe will provide a variety of longer-term opportunities for our company.”

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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
CytomX Therapeutics San Francisco, CA
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Flatiron Health New York City or San Francisco

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