Turns Out Editas Medicine's R&D Deal With Allergan Could be Worth $1 Billion

Turns Out Editas Medicine's R&D Deal With Allergan Could be Worth $1 Billion March 23, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Last week, Editas Medicine and Allergan plc signed a strategic research and development deal. Further analysis indicates that Editas could pull in more than $1 billion in milestone payments from the partnership.

The agreement provides Allergan with exclusive access and the option to license up to five of Editas’ genome-editing ocular programs. That includes the lead program for Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA10), which is in preclinical development. Editas has several CRISPR genome editing platforms, including CRISPR/Cas9 and CRISPR/Cpf1.

“Allergan has long been a leader in advancing innovative therapies to treat eye diseases,” said Katrine Bosley, Editas’ president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “Working together with Allergan through their Open Science R&D model significantly enhances our ability to develop genome editing medicines to help patients with serious eye diseases.”

LCA is a cluster of inherited retinal dystrophies that are caused by mutations in at least 18 different genes. The most common cause of inherited childhood blindness, it has an incidence of two to three per 100,000 live births globally.

Under that deal, Editas receives $90 million upfront for the programs. Now, as more details have come out, Editas is eligible for more than $200 million for each program in milestone payments. The $1 billion is hypothetical in that Allergan would have to exercise all five options and then meet the various milestones, but it’s a big overall deal potential.

“Key for Editas is that we established this alliance in line with our strategy to build a company for the long-term,” said a spokeswoman for Editas to The Boston Business Journal. “The relationship helps build the company for the long-term with the $90 million upfront payment and the potential to receive significant research, development and commercial milestones, as well as royalties on product sales for each program Allergan licenses.”

Editas has had a number of high-profile changes in its management team over the last seven months. Most recently, its chief operating officer, Alexandra Glucksmann, announced plans to leave on March 31. She was the company’s first employee.

In October 2016, Gerald Cox joined the company as chief medical officer. Prior to Editas, Cox was the vice president of Rare Disease Clinical Development at Sanofi Genzyme . It also announced that Kenneth LeClair was joining as vice president, Technical Development and Manufacturing. He was previously the executive director, Technical Research and Development of the Cell and Gene Therapies Unit at Novartis Pharmaceuticals (NVS).

Semiramis Trotto also joined as vice president, Human Resources. Prior to Editas, Trotto was vice president of Human Resources, Oncology, for Baxalta (BXLT). And on August 22, 2016, Charles Albright was hired as chief scientific officer. Previously, he was vice president of Genetically Defined Diseases and Genomics at Bristol-Myers Squibb .

The Allergan collaboration isn’t the only one for Editas. It has a collaboration deal with Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics that could bring in up to $700 million in milestone payments.

“The CRISPR genome editing platform holds the potential to transform the treatment of many genetic and non-genetically derived diseases, including diseases and conditions of the eye,” said David Nicholson, Allergan’s chief research and development officer, in a statement. “The Allergan team is excited to work with colleagues at Editas Medicine to develop and potentially deliver game-changing treatment for retinal diseases like LCA10. This program is highly complementary to our ongoing eye care development programs where unmet medical need exists for patients.”

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