Ed­i­tas and Cel­gene sub Juno are tack­ling hottest im­munother­a­py cells

As the first CRISPR-edit­ed can­cer pa­tients watch their treat­ments un­fold, one of the first CRISPR com­pa­nies is re­jig­ging a ma­jor on­col­o­gy deal.

Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine is amend­ing its long-run­ning col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cel­gene and their sub­sidiary Juno Ther­a­peu­tics. The new deal will ex­pand the fo­cus of their work to cov­er a sub­set of im­mune cells that have be­come an in­creas­ing­ly hot tar­get for im­munother­a­py: gam­ma-delta cells.

The deal will make Ed­i­tas el­i­gi­ble for a $70 mil­lion pay­ment along with oth­er pos­si­ble mile­stones and roy­al­ties.

“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion” of the deal, Ed­i­tas CSO Char­lie Al­bright told End­points News. These cells are part of the im­mune sys­tem and have sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial to treat sol­id tu­mors.

Char­lie Al­bright

Since it be­gan in 2015, the Juno-Ed­i­tas col­lab­o­ra­tion has fo­cused large­ly on al­pha-be­ta cells, the ones out­fit­ted with the spe­cial re­cep­tors in cur­rent CAR-T treat­ments. Sci­en­tists at those com­pa­nies and else­where have most pub­licly tried to ap­ply CRISPR to im­prove CAR-T, which now work sole­ly through vi­ral gene trans­fer.

But they have al­so worked on ex­pand­ing the ap­proach to oth­er im­mune cell types in hopes of mak­ing the treat­ment more ef­fec­tive, more ac­ces­si­ble or — as is the case with some of the gam­ma delta re­search — ex­pand it in­to oth­er can­cer types, es­pe­cial­ly sol­id tu­mors.

Ed­i­tas has been slow­ly build­ing their gam­ma-delta base through­out the year, Al­bright said. In April, they signed an agree­ment with Blue­Rock, in part to ac­cess pluripo­tent stem cells they hope to make in­to en­gi­neered gam­ma-delta cells that can be de­liv­ered to a pa­tient. (Es­sen­tial­ly a form of off-the-shelf CAR–T).

Sev­er­al com­pa­nies are now pur­su­ing gam­ma-delta im­munother­a­pies, in­clud­ing Gam­maDelta Ther­a­peu­tics and its new spin­off Adap­tate and Re­gen­eron-backed Adicet Bio. They’re bet­ting chiefly on these cells’ abil­i­ty to pen­e­trate the sol­id tu­mors that have been so re­sis­tant to the first wave of CAR-T treat­ments.

Al­bright ar­gued, though, that for these tech­niques to work you need gene edit­ing. In­nate abil­i­ties in the cells have to be tuned up, he said. You have to in­crease cells’ per­sis­tence and en­hance their abil­i­ty to sur­vive in a tu­mors’ mi­cro-en­vi­ron­ment. Ide­al­ly, he said, you even give it new abil­i­ties, such as the pow­er to cat­alyze the body’s in­nate im­mune sys­tem.

“You can’t do that with vi­ral trans­duc­tion,” Al­bright said. “You need gene edit­ing.”

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: Bris­tol My­er­s' Kris­ten Hege on cell ther­a­py, can­cer pa­tients and men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

Kristen Hege leads Bristol Myers Squibb’s early oncology discovery program carrying on from the same work at Celgene, which was acquired by BMS in 2019. She’s known for her early work in CAR-T, having pioneered the first CAR-T cell trial for solid tumors more than 25 years ago.

However, the eminent physician-scientist is more than just a drug developer mastermind. She’s also a practicing physician, mother to two young women, an avid backpacker and intersecting all those interests — a champion of young women and people of color in STEM and life sciences.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

US sup­ports ex­ten­sion for Covid-19 IP waiv­er de­ci­sion

After much debate, the US government is now calling for a deadline extension to discuss a controversial potential IP waiver for Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.

Over the last five months, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said it has consulted with members of Congress, public health advocates, organized labor groups, academics, think tanks, companies and trade associations on the WTO’s recent TRIPS agreement, which established a 5-year waiver of certain patent requirements on Covid-19 vaccines.

Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion lays ground­work to un­wind Il­lu­mi­na's $7B+ Grail merg­er

The European Commission has recommended steps that — though not yet final — would require Illumina to “swiftly” unwind its controversial $7.1 billion Grail buyout.

The Commission delivered a “statement of objections” on Monday, detailing the process Illumina would need to take in divesting Grail, its blood testing spinout launched in 2016. Illumina re-acquired Grail back in August, despite criticism from both the FTC and EU.

Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Phar­mas lay off Twit­ter ads for an­oth­er week; WPP un­cov­ers LGBTQ+ mar­ket­ing find­ings

When Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk tweeted this weekend, “Just a note to thank advertisers for returning to Twitter,” he likely wasn’t talking about big pharma companies. The vast majority of the top spending pharma advertisers had not returned last week, according to updated tracking data Pathmatic for Endpoints News.

Only three pharma advertisers spent any money at all, which is about the same as the past several weeks. AstraZeneca rejoined the active advertiser list, although at $700 spent hardly worth a personal Musk expression of gratitude. GSK remained active with $3,500 spent ad much lower than its previous spending, according to the Pathmatics data. Only Bayer spent any significant amount in advertising, with $244,000 spent last week, but that’s a considerable drop from almost $500,000 spent on OTC, prescription and corporate Twitter ads in each of the previous two weeks.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Bob Duggan, Summit Therapeutics co-CEO

Bounc­ing from ma­jor set­back, Sum­mit hands out $500M cash for can­cer drug — thanks to a loan from bil­lion­aire CEO

After hitting a dead end with Summit Therapeutics’ lead program, Bob Duggan has found the drug that he believes will usher into a compelling second act. So compelling, in fact, that it involves $500 million cash — and he’s taking money out of his own pocket to fund the deal.

Striking a partnership with Akeso Therapeutics out of China, Summit is bringing in a bispecific antibody that blocks both PD-1 and VEGF called ivonescimab. Akeso, which has a PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific approved in China, has already taken ivonescimab into multiple clinical trials, including a Phase III in lung cancer.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Gilmore O’Neill, Editas Medicine CEO

Ed­i­tas re­ports ear­ly-stage da­ta from two pa­tients in sick­le cell dis­ease

One company is moving forward in its bid to make a cell therapy for sickle cell disease viable — and after previous setbacks, including a hold earlier this year, execs are touting some really early data.

Editas Medicine announced Tuesday morning that it had positive safety and efficacy data from two patients in a Phase I/II trial investigating EDIT-301, a cell therapy candidate that Editas developed. Safety was measured in both patients, and efficacy data are from only the first patient dosed.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.