AstraZeneca looks to Revvity's gene editing tech to bolster cell therapy work

To rev up its cell therapy engine, AstraZeneca is looking to the aptly named Revvity.

The Big Pharma has inked a licensing deal with Revvity—the new moniker for the life sciences and diagnostics departments of PerkinElmer—to use its gene editing platform in the development of new cell therapy treatments for cancer and other immune-mediated diseases, according to a Thursday announcement.

The companies didn’t disclose the financial details of the agreement, but in a statement sent to Fierce Medtech, Bryan Kipp, head of life sciences strategy and integration at Revvity, said, “When it comes to structuring an agreement, our aim is to maximize the overall value of the agreement for all Revvity stakeholders through a license structure that includes upfront, milestone and royalty payments.”

The deal gives AstraZeneca access to the technology behind Revvity’s Pin-point gene editing system.

The platform takes a base editing approach, which builds on CRISPR-Cas9 techniques but allows for more precision in the gene editing process. Because base editors can alter a single strand of DNA at a time, they avoid the double-strand breaks common to CRISPR that can lead to the undesired insertion, deletion or rearrangement of nucleotides in the genome.

The Pin-point platform—which Revvity has exclusively licensed from its makers at Rutgers University—comprises a three-part, modular system that Revvity says allows it to be customized to the exact needs of a gene editing target.

The components include an RNA aptamer, a modified Cas9 enzyme and a deaminase enzyme. The guide RNA leads the modified Cas9 to the exact location of a DNA target, where the Cas9 nicks a single strand of the DNA; meanwhile, the deaminase carries out the desired base edit on the opposite strand, which is then used as a repair template for the nicked strand, therefore completing the base pair conversion.

According to Revvity, the Pin-point technology has been successfully used to edit a variety of gene types, including T cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, suggesting that the system could help create new therapeutics for a wide range of diseases.

The licensing deal with AstraZeneca is nonexclusive. As Kipp explained, “AstraZeneca is planning to use the Pin-point base editing system to create universal donor cells, which will be used as the foundation for a number of targeted therapies. ... The concept of creating a universal donor cell could be applied to a wide range of therapies by many different therapeutic developers, so a nonexclusive license provides the opportunity for Revvity to license the Pin-point platform to others without being restricted by the AstraZeneca license.”

Adding Pin-point’s base editing capabilities into the mix will bulk up AstraZeneca’s gene editing work, which has already been on something of a growth spurt for the last several years. In late 2021—several years later than planned and well over its originally set budget—the drugmaker opened its Discovery Centre R&D facility in Cambridge, U.K., with an aim of building out its gene editing, nucleotide-based and cell therapies.

Less than a year later, last October, AstraZeneca’s Alexion rare disease unit snapped up LogicBio Therapeutics, maker of technology platforms for the delivery and insertion of genes, to accelerate its own focus on genomic medicines.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional comments from Revvity.