Editas finds buyer for iNK programs 10 days after clearing out pipeline

Just 10 days after announcing plans to let go of its iNK programs as part of a major portfolio and workforce restructuring, Editas Medicine has found a buyer for the cell technologies in the form of Shoreline Biosciences.

In return for an upfront payment and the promise of potential future milestones for various programs—the dollar amounts of which Editas would not disclose to Fierce Biotech—Shoreline will acquire Editas’ allogeneic natural killer (iNK) cell franchise including preclinical solid tumor therapy EDIT-202.

In addition, Shoreline will gain the license to use Editas’ SLEEK gene editing knock-in technology on induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived NK cells as well as for PSC-derived macrophages in oncology. The deal also includes a nonexclusive license for Editas’ AsCas12a gene editing technology.

It’s a good fit for Shoreline and its stated aim, which is to “create the next-generation of iPSC-derived natural killer and macrophage cell therapies.” The San Diego-based biotech has signed partnerships with the likes of BeiGene and Gilead’s Kite, although it has yet to get a candidate into the clinic. The privately owned company raised $140 million in its most recent publicized funding round in November 2021.

“The addition of Editas Medicine’s novel gene editing SLEEK technology, combined with the use of a high efficiency and high fidelity proprietary CRISPR enzyme, and the other assets from Editas Medicine’s iNK franchise, strengthens our portfolio and ability to create next generation immunotherapies for patients with cancer,” said Shoreline CEO Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, Ph.D.

Editas put the programs up for sale after a brutal restructuring last week that saw the gene editing biotech lose 20% of its staff plus the planned departure of its chief scientific officer in March. As well as discontinuing its iNK programs, Editas also halted work on inherited retinal diseases including EDIT-103 for rhodopsin-associated autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa. At the time, the company said it would consider partnerships for the iNK franchise.

In their place, Editas made the call to go all in on hemoglobinopathies and in vivo gene editing, with sickle cell and transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia treatment EDIT-301 leading the charge.

“The acquisition of our allogeneic iNK franchise by Shoreline is highly aligned with our strategic portfolio reprioritization, as it allows us to sharpen our efforts on advancing current clinical stage trials and focus our resources on in vivo fit-for-purpose therapeutic construction and development,” Editas CEO Gilmore O'Neill said in this morning’s release. “Shoreline is a leader in developing next generation iNK and macrophage cell therapies, and we believe they are the right company to move these assets toward clinical applications.”