Editas cashes in on CRISPR patent with Vertex deal

Editas cashes in on CRISPR patent with Vertex deal

Dive Brief:

  • Days after winning U.S. approval of the first CRISPR gene-editing medicine, Vertex Pharmaceuticals is clearing up potential intellectual property questions about the sickle cell disease therapy by signing a deal with Editas Medicine.
  • In return for a non-exclusive license to use the gene editing technology in the treatment, Editas will receive $50 million upfront from Vertex, is eligible to receive another potential $50 million payment and annual licensing fees of up to $40 million through 2034, according to an SEC filing Wednesday. The deal pertains to treatments for beta thalassemia and sickle cell, including the newly approved Casgevy.
  • Editas, in turn, will have to share a percentage of payments with its partners at The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Overall, the deal extends the cash runway for Editas into 2026 as the company works to develop its own gene-editing therapies.

Dive Insight:

The deal may set the stage for more resolutions of the messy patent battle that has persisted behind the scenes of the incredible journey of CRISPR gene-editing technology from discovery to the market in a little more than a decade.

To develop Casgevy, Vertex partnered with CRISPR Therapeutics, founded by Emmanuelle Charpentier, one of two scientists who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of CRISPR technology as a gene editing tool. Though Charpentier and fellow Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna have the name recognition, their team’s patent claims on the technology as applied to human medicine have so far come up short.

Those patent rights are now helping keep Editas afloat, even though it’s far behind Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics in bringing its own therapy to market. The company abandoned its original focus on eye diseases and has suffered through layoffs and executive turnover.

Editas may now benefit from future deals based on the 2022 U.S. Patent Office ruling that favored the Broad Institute and Harvard, analysts said. The “key question going forward” is whether the deal sets “a precedent for others wanting access to CRISPR/Cas9 technology,” wrote Stifel analyst Dae Gon Ha in a note to investors.

“We’d be curious to what extent [the] deal terms will be used as a negotiation starting point for other relevant candidates/drugs,” Ha wrote.

Doudna’s Intellia Therapeutics and Caribou Biosciences are among the other companies working steadily to create new CRISPR-based therapies.

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