Editas Medicine said today it entered into three exclusive licensing agreements allowing four top-tier institutions to access intellectual property and technology related to the CRISPR/Cas9 and TALE genome editing systems that were developed by four of the company’s founders and a fifth investigator specializing in genome editing.
The value of the agreements was not disclosed.
One of the accords is an exclusive joint licensing agreement with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Harvard University. That accord allows broad use of the technology developed by Editas founders Feng Zhang, Ph.D., of the Broad Institute and George Church, Ph.D., and David R. Liu, Ph.D., both of Harvard University, for prevention and treatment of human disease.
Dr. Zhang is a core member of the Broad Institute, a McGovern Institute for Brain Research investigator, and a joint assistant professor in the departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering at MIT. Dr. Church is a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Liu is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
“The Broad, MIT, and Harvard share the goal of developing innovative technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 and promoting their translation to benefit patients,” Eric Lander, president and director of the Broad Institute, said in a statement issued by the three institutions. “We're committed to making these technologies broadly available for research and also ensuring that therapeutic development—bringing this technology to the clinic—has the best chance of success.”
The agreement includes a mechanism to ensure that genes that are not being pursued by Editas will be made available for licensing to other parties so that new medicines based on the technology can be developed for any disease that could be treated by the approach.
Broad Institute, MIT, and Harvard University partners have made CRISPR-Cas9 technology broadly available to the research community, the three institutions said, have freely granted licenses to academic scientists, and non-exclusively to industry partners, for development of research tools and reagents, “and will continue to do so.”
The agreement includes additional technologies relating to engineering and optimization of transcription activator-like effector (TALE) proteins that can also be programmed to target and modify specific genes, as well as a new protein-based drug delivery system that according to the three institutions, could potentially achieve up to one thousand-fold more effective drug delivery than conventional methods.
Editas also said it inked an exclusive license agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to access CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs IP and technology developed in the laboratory of Editas founder J. Keith Joung, M.D., Ph.D., for the prevention and treatment of human or animal disease, and broad agricultural use.
“Keith has made significant advances in designing genome editing molecules that are specific and precise in their actions. This is a critical element in creating robust medicines and is also a critical element of the broad and integrated scientific platform that we are building at Editas,” Bosley added in Editas’ statement of the MGH license.
The four founders whose technology is covered by the agreements joined with Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., last year in launching Editas with $43 million in Series A venture financing. Dr. Doudna is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Human disease prevention or treatment is also the use for which Editas has separately licensed from Duke University IP and technology developed in the laboratory of Charles Gersbach, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. While not a founder of Editas, his lab is focused on engineering new methods for directing cell behavior to regenerate diseased or damaged tissues and treat genetic diseases
“Charlie Gersbach is a leader in the field of genome editing and also in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetically-driven disease,” Editas CEO Katrine Bosley said in the company’s statement of its agreement with Duke. “Charlie’s deep expertise in both genome editing and in this area of biology is a tremendous asset as we begin to understand how to apply genome editing technologies to specific diseases.”