Vertex is paying nine figures to get its hands on CRISPR Therapeutics’ gene editing technology in a bid to make a third approach for type 1 diabetes.
The biotech said Monday morning that it is paying $100 million upfront to nab non-exclusive rights to CRISPR Therapeutics’ CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. The goal, according to Vertex, is to move forward with preclinical development of a hypoimmune gene-edited cell therapy for type 1 diabetes.
The agreement also includes an additional $230 million for CRISPR Therapeutics in milestones, as well as undisclosed royalties on any product that results from the deal.
CRISPR and Vertex have a long history that dates back to a 2015 deal on a gene editing collaboration, going after several targets in diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
The diabetes program at Vertex, meanwhile, kicked off in 2019 after the company acquired diabetes biotech Semma Therapeutics for $950 million in cash. That acquisition brought in pancreatic islet cells that Vertex uses in its two clinical-stage cell therapies for diabetes.
These two clinical programs, VX-880 and VX-264, require the use of an immunosuppressant or the use of a proprietary device, respectively, to shield the cells from being rapidly destroyed by a person’s immune system.
A Vertex spokesperson told Endpoints News that the hope for the deal with CRISPR is that Vertex can edit the islet cells using CRISPR’s technology to make them invisible from the immune system, or make those cells able to evade the immune system, getting rid of any need of a device or immunosuppression.
The spokesperson clarified that this program is different from the one announced between CRISPR Therapeutics and ViaCyte, which was acquired by Vertex in 2022. While it is the same idea in terms of approach, the cells being used in that collaboration are different — and the therapy is currently in the middle of a Phase I/II trial.
This is one of the newest developments for Vertex’s diabetes pipeline — with the announcement coming down less than three weeks after Vertex’s IND for VX-264 was approved by US regulators. The therapy is currently in a Phase I/II trial in Canada.