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the activity of T cells, which are the attack dogs of the immune system.
Novartis will also work together with Intellia to use CRISPR/Cas9 to go after diseases mediated by hematological stem cells (HSCs). HSC-mediated diseases include sickle-cell disease and beta thalassemia, but Bermingham declined to say which HSC-mediated diseases specifically the Intellia-Novartis partnership planned to address.
The specific dollar amounts in the deal were not disclosed, but Bermingham said the cash, combined with the $15 million Series A that closed last November, gave Intellia at least a five-year cushion without the need to tap more private funding. In that time, he said, Intellia should be able to move programs not licensed to Novartis into clinical trials. He declined to estimate clinical timelines more specifically.
The Novartis collaboration lasts five years. At various points during those five years, the two companies will stop and assess their joint development of HSC programs, potentially dividing their ownership between the two camps.
Intellia is not the originator of its own platform. It has exclusive license to CRISPR/Cas9 through Caribou Biosciences, a Berkeley, CA, startup. Caribou has cut its own deal with Novartis, also announced today: Novartis gets non-exclusive rights to use Caribou’s CRISPR/Cas9 technology for research, and Caribou gets a year of funding plus cash toward a Series A funding round. (Terms were not disclosed.)
Caribou’s IP stems from the University of California, Berkeley, where biochemist Jennifer Doudna worked on a crucial idea with others at Berkeley and beyond. They took a defense system that bacteria deploy against viruses, first discovered a quarter-century ago by Japanese researchers, and made key changes that turned the system into a gene-modification tool. They published their work in Science in 2012. Doudna’s group and researchers affiliated with Editas are so far the two main parties contesting each other’s IP, although it would be no surprise if the patent disputes become multi-sided.
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