Intellia gears up for human testing of CRISPR with new HQ, set to double staffers

CRISPR is one of the hottest tickets in the biotech research field this year, but Intellia has yet to enter human testing for its tech.

After getting off its $100 million-plus IPO in the summer, gene editing biotech Intellia Therapeutics is getting ready for human tests of its preclinical CRISPR tech with new digs designed to help bolster its research capabilities.

The biotech, which has the backing and partnerships of the likes of Atlas, Novartis and Regeneron, is on the move as it heads over to its new lab facilities at 40 Erie Street, in Cambridge, MA.

“The field of genome editing is rapidly evolving and our work to develop therapies for patients requires that we have the infrastructure necessary for R&D growth and prepare for preclinical studies and clinical trials,” said Dr. Nessan Bermingham, CEO and founder of Intellia Therapeutics.

“To reach our goals, we continue to recruit top talent and ensure our quality workforce has the appropriate facilities and tools necessary to translate CRISPR/Cas9 into life-transforming products.”

The new facility is deisgned to allow Intellia to push on with its scientific programs and to “continue to leverage our Massachusetts location alongside leading biotech research and academic institutions,” Dr. Bermingham added.

The new Intellia headquarters was specifically designed to house its growing R&D, operations teams and admin staff, the biotech said, as it heads towards clinical testing.  

Intellia added that it will also be maintaining ops at its current facility at 130 Brookline Street in Cambridge. The new research digs will however boost Intellia’s total lab and office space from the current 15,000 sq. ft. to more than 80,000 sq. ft., allowing it to double its team to more than 200 employees.

It got off its $108 million public offering back in May, money which will be used to push on with R&D programs for its candidates through to the submission of at least one IND, according to its SEC-1 filing at the time.

The biotech also said it will splash out on the “acquisition of businesses or technologies” for its research programs.

This includes progressing its in vivo and ex vivo pipeline product candidates, as well as further developing its delivery technologies and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing platform.

One of its in vivo candidates, which targets transthyretin amyloidosis (ATTR), a life-threatening disease caused by misfolded transthyretin proteins that accumulate as amyloid fibrils in multiple organs, is being co-developed with Regeneron.

This is one potential candidate that could be advanced to IND-enabling trials in the next 12 to 24 months, according to the company.

In the ex vivo field, Intellia is working with Novartis on a knockout repair insertion technology using hematopoietic stem cells, with a first IND expected to be submitted in 2018.

Rival CRISPR co Editas, which also went public this year, has already said it aims to have its first program for a rare form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis in clinical trials by next year.

These companies, along with CRISPR Therapeutics and others, including Dr Carl June’s academic group have all lost out on becoming the first to trial in-human testing of this new gene editing tech as Chinese scientists pipped them to the post a month ago in their native country.

In-human testing in the U.S. looks likely to not start until next year.

 Intellia was down 1.4% last night, with a market cap just over $500 million.