Bayer, CRISPR Form Gene Editing Joint Venture | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: December 21, 2015

Bayer, CRISPR Form Gene Editing Joint Venture

Pharmaceuticals: Broad pact caps busy year for firms with CRISPR-Cas9 technology
Department: Business
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: pharmaceuticals, biotech, gene editing, CRISPR
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Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 protein molecule (space-filling structure) uses RNA (green and gray helix) to guide nuclease activity for editing DNA (red helix). Cas9 creates a double-stranded break at a precise position on the DNA.
Credit: Ian Slaymaker/Lauren Solomon, courtesy of Broad Institute
An image of the CRISPR gene-editing technique in action.
 
Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 protein molecule (space-filling structure) uses RNA (green and gray helix) to guide nuclease activity for editing DNA (red helix). Cas9 creates a double-stranded break at a precise position on the DNA.
Credit: Ian Slaymaker/Lauren Solomon, courtesy of Broad Institute

Bayer and CRISPR Therapeutics have established a joint venture to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to develop therapies to treat blood disorders, blindness, and congenital heart disease. Bayer will sink at least $300 million into R&D over the five-year pact and is taking a minority stake worth $35 million in CRISPR Therapeutics.

Like the “find and replace” function in Microsoft Word, the CRISPR-Cas9 system enables researchers to precisely snip out problematic stretches of DNA and swap in new genetic material. The potential to harness the technology to treat—or even cure—genetic diseases prompted a flurry of deal-making in 2015. The Bayer agreement is the most sizable commitment to date from a big pharma firm to CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

CRISPR’s chief executive officer, Rodger Novak, calls the deal “game changing.” The biotech firm has full rights to develop therapies based on delivery technologies and intellectual property created by the joint venture outside of the three disease areas. Bayer, meanwhile, is allowed to use any jointly discovered technology for nonhuman applications.

CRISPR Therapeutics was founded in 2013 based on intellectual property licensed from Emmanuelle Charpentier, one of three scientists associated with the discovery of the gene editing system. The Bayer deal follows a sizable pact with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which in October paid CRISPR Therapeutics $105 million to use its gene-editing technology to develop treatments against cystic fibrosis and sickle cell diseases. Celgene, meanwhile, contributed to the company’s last financing round.

The other two scientists considered inventors of the CRISPR/Cas9 system are Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang. Between the three scientists, four companies have been founded to exploit the technology. Caribou Bioscience and Intellia are associated with Doudna, and Zhang is a founder of Editas Medicine.

The yet-to-be named Bayer-CRISPR joint venture will be based in London with operations in Cambridge, Mass.

 
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