Just days after biotech rivals formed an IP alliance around CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tech, Editas Medicines $EDIT has fired back in their patent war by bagging an exclusive license to what is being billed as an upgrade to improve researchers’ ability to edit genes and fight disease.
Like its foundation IP, this new tech, which substitutes a new DNA editing “tool” called Cpf1 in place of Cas9, comes from Feng Zhang at MIT. Cambridge, MA-based Editas gained their new Cpf1 tech — along with new IP on Cas9 — from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Harvard University, MIT, Wageningen University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Tokyo.
Cpf1 is a protein that has excited investigators by appearing to be a more versatile tool than Cas9, making it possible to replace a DNA sequence while requiring only one RNA molecule, rather than two as in Cas9, to make a cut. Feng Zhang and his colleagues made waves with this tech just a few months ago, raising the prospect that they had carved a new spot out for themselves in the fast-growing gene editing world.
The idea that you can edit a gene to treat diseases has gripped the imagination of academic research centers around the world while inspiring a wave of startups, must of which got their CRISPR/Cas9 tech from Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna.
Doudna and Charpentier’s group — including Intellia $NTLA and CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP — have banded together to wage a war over the patent that Feng Zhang obtained, threatening to undercut Editas’ pioneering role in the field as one of the most advanced biotechs in this field. This new license could give Editas an advantage in protecting their work just as they’re planning to make the big leap into the clinic.
“We are delighted to expand our global CRISPR genome editing leadership and to build on the groundbreaking work of these important academic institutions to develop both the new genome editing system Cpf1 and advanced forms of Cas9,” said Katrine Bosley, President and Chief Executive Officer of Editas Medicine. “With the addition of these significant advancements, we further develop the strongest and most differentiated platform in the fast-moving field of CRISPR, which enables us to design and develop unprecedented genome editing medicines.”
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