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December 19, 2016

Editas Expands CRISPR Capabilities through New Technology Licensing

  • Officials at Editas Medicine say they exclusively licensed intellectual property related to new CRISPR technologies for human therapeutics. These global licensing agreements include intellectual property owned by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (Broad Institute), Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Wageningen University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Tokyo for the new CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, genome-editing system known as Cpf1, advanced forms of Cas9, and additional Cas9-based genome editing technologies.

    “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 CEO 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.”

    Cpf1 is a CRISPR genome-editing system that has been recently characterized and engineered and may be applied to make medicines for humans, among other applications. According to Bosley, Cpf1 complements the Cas9 genome-editing system because the Cpf1 protein is structurally distinct, has independent intellectual property, and has several potential benefits. Among these are increasing the number of sites in the genome that can be edited, because Cpf1 has distinct protospacer adjacent motifs. The system has simpler manufacture and delivery because the natural system requires only a short, single CRISPR guide RNA and does not include a trans-activating CRISPR RNA (tracrRNA). It also has increased efficiency and accuracy for some forms of gene repair because it makes staggered DNA cuts.

    Under the terms of the combined licenses for Cpf1, advanced forms of Cas9, and additional Cas9-based genome-editing technologies from the Broad Institute, Harvard University, MIT, Wageningen University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Tokyo, Editas Medicine will make total upfront cash payments of $6.25 million and issue a promissory note totaling $10 million that can be settled in stock or cash over a predefined period. In the future, Editas Medicine may make additional payments in cash or stock upon reaching goals and targets related to research and development, commercialization, and market capitalization, and will pay royalties on products based on these technologies. 

    Bosley also noted that these licenses employ the inclusive innovation model, developed by Broad Institute, Harvard University, and MIT, “which enables Editas Medicine to devote sufficient investment to develop CRISPR-based genome-editing technology to treat human diseases, while enabling broad development of medicines against many diseases.” Under this model, Editas Medicine has a right to exclusively use the technology on targets of its choosing for the development of genomic medicines. After an initial period, other companies may apply.

    This past Friday, three developers of treatments based on CRISPR/Cas9 and a company that facilitates nonexclusive licensing of the gene-editing technology said today they have signed a global cross-consent and invention management agreement for the foundational intellectual property covering CRISPR/Cas9. The three developers—CRISPR Therapeutics, Intellia Therapeutics, and Caribou Biosciences—and ERS Genomics entered into the agreement with CRISPR IP co-owners, the Regents of the University of California (UC), Emmanuelle Charpentier, Ph.D., of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, and the University of Vienna.

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