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Bayer, CRISPR Therapeutics Launch JV to Develop CRISPR/Cas9 Treatments

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Switzerland's CRISPR Therapeutics and Germany's Bayer today announced a yet unnamed joint venture to develop ways to deliver CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in a clinical setting.

The deal brings together Bayer's experience in protein engineering and knowledge of human diseases with CRISPR Therapeutics' CRISPR/Cas9 intellectual property and genome editing expertise, the firms said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, the partners will launch the joint venture to find, develop, and commercialize new therapies for blood disorders, blindness, and congenital heart disease. Bayer will provide at least $300 million over five years for R&D expenses as well as acquire a minority stake in CRISPR Therapeutics or $35 million.

Any newly created intellectual property from the collaboration around the CRISPR-Cas9 system beyond the three disease areas will be made exclusively available to CRISPR Therapeutics, for use in humans, and to Bayer for non-human use, such as agricultural applications. All technology development and future IP developed by the JV will also be exclusively available to the parent companies Bayer and CRISPR Therapeutics.

"The JV and the Bayer investment are game-changing for our business," CRISPR Therapeutics CEO and Co-Founder Rodger Novak said in a statement. "We keep a 50 percent ownership in the high-risk, high-reward areas of blood disorders, blindness, and congenital heart diseases, but also retain full access to target delivery technologies and IP development by the JV, which we intend to fully leverage in support of CRISPR Therapeutics' wholly owned core strategic disease areas."

The new, unnamed firm will be led by interim CEO Axel Bouchon, Head of the Bayer LifeScience Center, while Novak will serve as the interim chairman of the board. It will be based in London with operations in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Closing of the transaction is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2016, the firms said.

Basel, Switzerland-based CRISPR Therapeutics has licensed its CRISPR/Cas9 IP through Co-Founder Emmanuelle Charpentier. The firm also has operations in Cambridge, Massachusetts and corporate offices in London. In October, the firm signed a $105 million collaboration deal with Vertex Pharmaceuticals to research CRISPR-based therapies for diseases with established genetic targets such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease.

It joins Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics in the race to find and develop clinical applications of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. In August, Editas raised $120 million; in September, Intellia raised $70 million

The JV is the first investment by the newly established Bayer LifeScience Center, a new strategic innovation unit at Bayer. "The BLSC has the mission to uncover, encourage and unlock fundamental scientific and medical breakthroughs more rapidly by enabling innovative partnerships with entrepreneurial best-in-class biotechnology companies like CRISPR Therapeutics," Bayer said in a statement.