$125M Regeneron deal in hand, CRISPR/Cas9 star Intellia files for IPO

One of the leaders in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tech is partnering with one of the best in the biotech drug development business. 

Cambridge, MA-based Intellia reported this evening that it will reap $125 million in an upfront and equity stake from Regeneron, as the big biotech operation teams up on some bleeding-edge tech work. And it's using the occasion to launch a matching $120 million IPO.

For Regeneron, the tie-up is a practical way to follow up on its big investment in the Regeneron Genetics Center, which has been plumbing the genome for new genetic targets in drug development. Starting with transthyretin amyloidosis they’ll be working with Intellia on up to 10 targets, primarily by studying diseases that can be addressed by editing genes in the liver. Regeneron can cherry-pick up to 5 nonliver targets, though Intellia’s ongoing work outside the liver is off-limits.

CRISPR/Cas9 uses new technology to slice and splice DNA, and it’s been sweeping academic labs around the world.

Intellia is one of a handful of biotechs which is pioneering the use of the technology in drug development. Launched by Atlas Venture and partnered closely with Novartis ($NVS), the technology at Intellia comes from a startup--Caribou-- founded by UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna, who worked closely with Emmanuelle Charpentier on making CRISPR/Cas9 ready for prime time. Those two have been battling Editas over control of the foundation IP, though there have been several new advances in just the past year.

The IP didn't come cheap. According to the IPO, Intellia handed Doudna's Caribou a $21.5% stake in the company. Novartis has a 20.3% interest while Atlas retained 17%. 

Regeneron, which has been scoring a swift series of late-stage wins with Sanofi, is paying a $75 million upfront and promised $50 million for the next round, which follows a $70 million fundraising last fall that clearly outlined the biotech's yearning for a public offering.

Now allied closely with a pair of the biggest players in biopharma, Intellia has laid the foundation for an IPO that will attempt to win over a wary set of investors--many of whom have steered clear of biotech as the sector was pummeled over recent months. Intellia will be banking on the allure of an emerging technology that allowed Editas to get out on the market successfully in the face of severe headwinds.

It's also divulging some juicy details about its two big partnerships that you won't find in any press releases. Their S-1 notes that Novartis committed $63 million in an upfront and near-term research payments along with an equity stake and up to $230 million in milestones. Regeneron added up to $320 million in milestones for each of its programs

Intellia is a 2015 Fierce 15 company.

"Our industry-leading human genetics research with the Regeneron Genetics Center is already identifying important genetic targets, building on our long-standing expertise in genetic engineering," said George Yancopoulos, the CSO at Regeneron. "We believe combining these capabilities with Intellia's technology holds real promise for serious diseases that have been historically difficult to address, and expands our ability to help patients where antibody-based therapies may not be the optimal solution."

- here's the release