Novartis AG Strikes First-of-its-Kind Biotech Deal for Next Generation Drugs

Published: Jan 09, 2015

Novartis AG Strikes First-of-its-Kind Biotech Deal for Next Generation Drugs
January 7, 2015
By Krystle Vermes, Breaking News Staff

Novartis announced today that is has reached an agreement with Intellia Therapeutics and Caribou Biosciences to discover and develop new medicine using CRISPR genome editing technology.

CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, and it allows researchers to precisely edit the genes of specific cells. Over time, it has shown that it could be a powerful tool for creating models of disease, which are essential to drug discovery. CRISPR has also proven that it can be used as a therapeutic modality for treating disease at the genetic level.

Novartis has gained exclusive rights to developing all collaboration programs focused on engineered chimeric antigen receptor T-cells. It will also have non-exclusive rights to Caribou’s CRISPR for research conducted during the deal.

"We have glimpsed the power of CRISPR tools in our scientific programs in NIBR, and it is now time to explore how to safely extend this powerful technology to the clinic," said Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. "CRISPR has the potential to open a new branch of medicine, editing the genome to cure disease. Much remains to be learned, and we are delighted to explore these directions with colleagues from Intellia and Caribou.”

The Founding of Intellia Therapeutics
Caribou Biosciences, which focuses on technology-based solutions for cellular engineering, announced the development of Intellia Therapeutics in November 2014. The company, which was created with help from Atlas Venture, is dedicated to utilizing CRISPR to make new therapies aimed at genetic-based diseases.

"We are delighted to have partnered with Atlas Venture in the founding of Intellia Therapeutics," said Rachel Haurwitz, chief executive officer and co-founder of Caribou Biosciences. "The exceptional management team assembled and external advisors assembled for Intellia will enable it to translate the potential of Caribou’s CRISPR-Cas9 platform for gene editing and repair into viable clinical programs."

Caribou’s technology is based on a protein known as Cas9, which comes from the CRISPR bacterial system. This system is known for destroying invading viruses. Cas9 can be programmed to use guide RNAs to target the protein to a sequence within DNA.

"Our strategic focus is on rapidly advancing our CRISPR-Cas9 platform through collaborations with industry leaders,” Haurwitz continued. “Our partners provide us with direct market feedback to focus the development of our cellular engineering capabilities. We believe these collaborations and partnerships will be the driver of our evolution from a platform development company towards robust, product-focused revenue generation."

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