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Editas goes public despite CRISPR patent battle

8 February 2016
Appeared in BioNews 838

A biotechnology company co-founded by two leading scientists involved in developing the genome-editing technology, CRISPR-Cas9, has gone public, raising over $94 million in its initial share offering.

The gains were made despite the fact that two of its original co-founders, Professor Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley – who no longer works with the company – and Professor Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, are locked in an ongoing patent dispute over rights to the CRISPR technology (see BioNews 835).

Editas, based in Boston and supported by investments from Google Ventures and Bill Gates, floated an initial public offering (IPO) in January and sold 5.9 million shares totalling $94.4 million. The company plans to use CRISPR technology, which is still in its infancy, to treat a rare form of blindness (see BioNews 828). CEO Katrine Bosley has announced that they intend to begin clinical trials in 2017.

However, it is not yet clear whether Editas, which licenses the Broad patents, will continue to have rights to use the technology. Patent rights currently awarded to Professor Zhang and the Broad are being challenged by Professor Doudna, and the dispute is not expected to be decided for a couple of years.

Wired explains that if Professor Zhang loses the rights in dispute, or is required to share them with Professor Doudna, then Editas would need to obtain a licences from her, which could be costly and may not even be possible.

Editas also faces competition from other companies that are developing CRISPR technology, including Professor Doudna's own Caribou Biosciences and also CRISPR Therapeutics, which has recently announced a $300 million joint venture with Bayer AG to develop new drugs for a range of illnesses.

Harry Glorikian, a Lexington life sciences consultant, said: 'This is groundbreaking technology that's going to fundamentally change how we treat some diseases. The technology itself is the highlight of this IPO.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
A Bill Gates-backed startup that wants to edit your genes just raised nearly $100 million
Business Insider |  2 February 2016
Crispr Gene-Editing Upstart Editas Goes Public as Patent Battle Rages
Wired |  4 February 2016
DNA-Editing Company Goes Public While Nasty Patent Fight Roars On
BuzzFeed News |  3 February 2016
Editas Medicine raises $94.4 million in year’s first IPO
Boston Globe |  2 February 2016
Gene-Editing Company Editas’s Ambitions Rest on Shaky Foundations
MIT Technology Review |  3 February 2016
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