Swiss drug-maker Novartis has entered collaboration and licensing agreements with Intellia Therapeutics to develop new medicines using CRISPR genome editing technology and Caribou Biosciences for drug discovery tools.
CRISPR is an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, which helps scientists easily and precisely edit genes of targeted cells.
Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) president Mark Fishman said: "We have glimpsed the power of CRISPR tools in our scientific programmes in NIBR, and it is now time to explore how to safely extend this powerful technology to the clinic.
"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 deal with Intellia includes R&D activities at NIBR, which will focus on using CRISPR ex-vivo for engineering chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CARTs) and haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs).
As part of the agreement with Caribou, Novartis will focus on using its foundational CRISPR platform and intellectual property as a research tool for drug discovery.
Novartis will receive exclusive rights to develop all collaboration programmes focused on engineered CARTs and the right to develop an undisclosed number of targets for ex-vivo editing of HSCs, as part of the deal with Intellia.
The deal also allows Novartis to receive non-exclusive rights for limited in-vivo therapeutic applications of CRISPR systems, while Intellia is eligible to receive downstream success-based milestones and royalties.
Novartis noted it is increasing its equity investment in Intellia and will provide technology access fees and funding for R&D programmes during the five-year term of the collaboration.
Under the terms of the agreement with Caribou, Novartis will receive non-exclusive rights to its CRISPR platform for research conducted during the collaboration and is providing funding for the one-year research programme.
In addition, Novartis is making an equity investment in the company.
Image: Novartis AG headquarters in Basel. Photo: courtesy of Leoboudv.