Oxford Genetics licenses CRISPR tech to power synbio push

Oxford Genetics has licensed CRISPR gene editing technology from ERS Genomics. The agreement gives the British synthetic biology service provider the right to use CRISPR technology to improve gene therapy viral vectors and develop cell lines.

Oxford, United Kingdom-based Oxford Genetics has secured the nonexclusive rights to the CRISPR intellectual property. Oxford Genetics plans to use the technology to provide genome engineering services and support its cell line development and gene therapy viral vector R&D efforts. The agreement also clears Oxford Genetics to use the CRISPR-edited cells lines in the production of biotherapeutics. And to use CRISPR to develop research tools and reagents for sale.

News of the agreement comes almost exactly three years after Horizon Discovery licensed CRISPR intellectual property from ERS Genomics for use in similar applications. The nonexclusive deal between ERS Genomics and Horizon Discovery—which is based 70 miles away from Oxford Genetics in Cambridge—gave the genomics research business the right to use CRISPR to develop research tools, kits and reagents and in other applications.

ERS Genomics was cofounded by Emmanuelle Charpentier, Ph.D., one of the key players in the story of the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 immune system and its role in cleaving DNA. Charpentier set up the organization to facilitate access to the CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property she holds. The firm is on the same side of the CRISPR patent dispute as CRISPR Therapeutics, Intellia Therapeutics and Caribou Biosciences. Together, the companies are appealing the U.S. patent board’s ruling in the Broad Institute case.

The ruling looked at the question of whether the it was obvious to apply CRISPR to eukaryotic cells, such as the CHO and HEK293 cell lines Oxford Genetics uses in its cell line development services. But the uncertainty created by the ongoing patent dispute has not stopped Oxford Genetics from striking a deal to add CRISPR to its arsenal.

“Licensing the CRISPR gene editing technology from ERS Genomics is another step on our journey to establishing the most efficient and integrated service portfolio in this sector. We are excited to be adding this technology to our existing portfolio in the synthetic biology space and supporting the rapidly expanding market for products and services that utilise genome engineering technologies,” Paul Brooks, Ph.D., chief commercial officer at Oxford Genetics, said in a statement.