Last year, AbbVie decided to walk away from a pact with gene editing biotech Editas that was originally penned via its new buyout, Allergan.
Now, the Big Pharma is back in the CRISPR biotech game, signing up to a new deal with Editas’ rival Caribou Biosciences, although this research deal goes further.
AbbVie is tapping Caribou's CRISPR genome editing platform to engineer CAR-T cells to withstand the so-called host immune attack, which would enable the development of the next generation of "off-the-shelf" cellular therapies to benefit a broader patient population. These would also be quicker and easier than traditional CAR-T therapies to make and use.
Its original deal with Editas, via Allergan, was made in 2017 and was worth $90 million for a CRISPR research pact that focused on ocular disorders but not on CAR-T.
AbbVie clearly had other plans, canning that deal in August last year and choosing Caribou instead. The deal sees just $40 million go to the biotech upfront, with a modest $300 million in biobucks also on the table as well as royalties should any treatments grab approvals.
The pact will see AbbVie use Caribou's next-generation Cas12a CRISPR hybrid RNA-DNA genome editing and cell therapy tech to research and develop two new CAR-T cell therapies directed to targets “specified by AbbVie,” though not in its release, which was light on target details; most CAR-Ts, however, are being directed against common forms of blood cancer.
Caribou, meanwhile, will conduct certain preclinical research, development and manufacturing activities for the collab programs, and AbbVie will reimburse Caribou for its efforts. AbbVie also holds on to an option to pay a fee to expand the pact to include up to an additional two CAR-T cell therapies.