First startup blooms from Mayo Clinic cell and gene therapy accelerator with $750M Cellectis partnership

Seeds from Mayo Clinic’s cell and gene therapy accelerator Mayflower Bioventures have taken flight in a new biotech called Primera Therapeutics, which launches today with a blossoming $750 million partnership to work on therapies for mitochondrial diseases.

The new company has formed a strategic collaboration with gene editing biotech Cellectis to create new therapies for mitochondrial diseases by editing mutations in mitochondrial DNA. These genetic diseases can cause varying symptoms such as seizures, strokes, hearing impairment or cognitive disabilities and have very few treatment options, often resulting in early childhood death.

Cellectis will be up for $750 million in development and sales milestones through the partnership. Primera has an exclusive worldwide option for up to five candidates from Cellectis developed through the collaboration. The companies could also sign further agreements, which could include a 19% ownership stake in Primera for Cellectis plus a seat on the new biotech’s board.

The two companies will develop a mitochondrial DNA toolbox together. Cellectis will bring its experience in gene editing research, technology, manufacturing and clinical development for swift advancement of the programs.

Primera will initially focus on mitochondrial diseases caused by genetic changes in mitochondrial DNA based on science from the Mayo Clinic lab of Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., and Karl Clark, Ph.D. The company hopes to fix mutated mitochondrial DNA in patients to achieve a cure for the disease.

The new biotech has also partnered with the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, which is the largest source of funding for mitochondrial diseases outside of the government.

The new biotech comes from Mayflower Bioventures, a cell and gene therapy accelerator that was launched last year through a partnership between venture capital firm Hibiscus BioVentures and Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic. Primera is the first startup to come out of the accelerator, which was formed to advance Mayo Clinic technologies through preclinical and early feasibility studies.