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Broad Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital License CRISPR Tech to Pairwise

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Agriculture and food company Pairwise announced today that it signed agreements to license CRISPR genome editing technologies from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute.

The company said it plans to use the technologies to develop new applications in crop editing, for research to bring new foods to market, and to increase the sustainability of modern agriculture. Pairwise CEO Tom Adams noted in a statement that the company is planning to work with "a wide array of food and agriculture companies spanning row and specialty crops, fruits, and vegetables to make these critical tools accessible as we all work to tackle the challenges facing our food system."

Specifically, Pairwise said it has obtained an exclusive license to certain unspecified MGH CRISPR technology, which it will use in agricultural applications. Access to MGH's "optimized CRISPR enzymes" will allow the firm to overcome challenges in the food and agriculture industry, and to develop a wider array of healthy and sustainable food, Aaron Hummel, head of genome editing technologies for Pairwise, said in the statement.

"Whether through health care or healthy foods, we are all concerned with the health and well-being of the communities we serve," Harvard Medical School pathology professor, MGH researcher, and Pairwise Cofounder Keith Joung added. "The high-fidelity and enhanced CRISPR enzymes with improved target recognition capabilities that we have developed for medical uses also have the potential to increase gene editing efficiencies and could ultimately increase the pace of innovation in agriculture."

The company has also signed a non-exclusive license agreement with the Broad for its Cas9 and Cas12 patent portfolios for use in plants and agriculture. This license includes both Cas12a and Cas12b, Pairwise noted.

"Our goal is to maximize the scientific impact of CRISPR-Cas9 for improving agriculture, and our non-exclusive licensing agreements offer the opportunity to provide wide access to help researchers reduce food waste, limit pesticides, and improve drought resistance, while promoting safe and ethical uses of groundbreaking technologies," Broad Chief Business Officer Issi Rozen also noted.

The Broad's licenses prohibit the use of the institute's CRISPR technologies for gene drives, sterile seeds, or tobacco products for human use.

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. Since its formation in March 2018, Pairwise has grown to more than 60 employees. The company anticipates hiring an additional 30 to 40 employees in 2019.

The Broad has made several licensing deals for its CRISPR IP over the past several months, most recently with Promega in January for knock-in of genetic reporters into the genomes of any cell or cell line.