Bayer takes deeper inroads into CRISPR tech with new deal

Lab work

After putting up $335 million in research support for a JV with CRISPR Therapeutics late last year, Bayer has today announced another gene editing pact, this time with ERS Genomics.

Bayer and ERS have signed a patent license agreement that will see the German drugmaker gain access to ERS’ CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing patents. This will be used “for certain cross-divisional applications in Bayer's core strategic areas,” the pharma co. said in a statement. Financial details were not disclosed.

Dublin, Ireland-based ERS Genomics holds rights to foundational CRISPR-Cas9 patent portfolio from Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier--an inventor of the breakthrough gene-editing technology.

CRISPR tech--which centers on a simple method for reengineering DNA--may well have profound consequences in treating disease and even change the way certain conditions are treated. It is seen by many in pharma and biotech as a major new class of therapeutic, with a heap of companies hedging their bets that it will yield serious sales in the future.

Earlier this month, CRISPR-Cas9 player Intellia Therapeutics went for the bullish top range of its $108 million IPO, enjoying the backing of Novartis ($NVS) and a deal with Regeneron ($REGN), despite being only preclinical.

Cambridge, MA-based gene-editing company Editas ($EDIT)--which raised $94.4 million in its IPO back in February--has also seen a lot of buzz around its potential, alongside Cellectis ($CLLS) of Paris and Sangamo Biosciences ($SMGO) of Richmond, CA, as well as CRISPR Therapeutics—which with Bayer’s funding has seen a boost in VC investment.

The drugmaker’s latest investment has come from the newly created Bayer LifeScience Center (BLSC)--the body that signed the JV with CRISPR Therapeutics to discover, develop and commercialize new breakthrough therapeutics to cure blood disorders, blindness, and congenital heart disease.

The BLSC is essentially a venture arm of the company, similar to ones led by Lilly ($LLY) and Novartis, with bigger deals said to be ahead for the company.

Dr. Axel Bouchon, head of the Bayer Life Science Center, said: “This is perfectly suited to fully leverage the tremendous potential of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing within Bayer and serves as ideal addition to our partnership with CRISPR Therapeutics.”

“We are pleased to include Bayer into our portfolio of licensees,” added Shaun Foy, CEO and founder of ERS Genomics. “Genome editing has broad applications in drug discovery and development and making the CRISPR-Cas9 patents available to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies is an important part of our strategy.”

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