Novartis taps into gene editing for next generation drugs

Wed Jan 7, 2015 6:10am EST
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* Deals signed with biotech firms Intellia and Caribou

* Swiss drugmaker to use CRISPR gene editing technology

* Intellia tie-up covers CART and hematopoietic stem cells

* Caribou collaboration focused on drug discovery tools

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Novartis is diving deeper into the world of gene-based medicine by signing deals with two U.S. biotech companies, giving it access to a powerful new genome editing technology.

The tie-ups with unlisted Intellia Therapeutics and Caribou Biosciences show the Swiss drugmaker's confidence in the potential of so-called CRISPR technology, both for making new medicines and as a research tool.

CRISPR, which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, allows scientists to edit the genes of selected cells accurately and efficiently. It has created great excitement since emerging two years ago and is being tipped for a Nobel Prize.

While current gene therapy approaches involve adding genes to affected cells, CRISPR opens up the possibility of correcting those cells' faulty genes in the lab before returning them to the patient.   Continued...