AbbVie cuts Editas CRISPR pact it inherited from Allergan

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Editas Medicine’s shares fell by nearly 4% afterhours when Allergan’s new owner AbbVie decided to end a deal originally penned under its buyout with the gene-editing biotech.

The pact between Editas and Allergan was penned back in the spring of 2017, with the biotech getting $90 million for a CRISPR research pact that focused on ocular disorders.

Under the deal, Allergan got exclusive access and the option to license up to five of Editas’ genome-editing eye disease programs, including its lead program for Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA10), then preclinical.

It started human testing last year (after a delay caused by manufacturing issues) and is now known as EDIT-101. The condition, which is very rare, affects the light-receiving cells of the retina in children.

But now, priorities are changing: Allergan was snapped up for $63 billion earlier this year by AbbVie, and its new owner is having a pipeline clear-out. Editas now regains full rights to the drugs originally penned under that 2017 pact.

Editas framed it as a positive, saying it “[e]nhances strategic flexibility and control of lead programs, including EDIT-101,” but investors still soured, sending its shares in the red by 3.9% afterhours Thursday.

“We are currently focused on advancing EDIT-101 with dosing resumed in the phase 1/2 BRILLIANCE clinical trial,” said Cynthia Collins, CEO of Editas. “We remain on track to complete dosing of the adult low-dose cohort and to dose at least one patient of the adult mid-dose cohort by the end of this year. We look forward to sharing additional updates from BRILLIANCE clinical trial and other medicines in development in our ocular program later this year.”