Novartis is buying into CRISPR gene editing technology via two separate deals with Intellia Therapeutics and Caribou Biosciences.

CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, allows scientists to easily and precisely edit the genes of targeted cells, which the firm says has “great potential “for use as a therapeutic modality for treating disease at the genetic level by deleting, repairing or replacing the genes that cause disease”.

The Swiss drug giant revealed this morning that it has entered into a collaboration with Intellia combining resources, research expertise and cell and gene therapy leadership at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research with Intellia's CRISPR expertise and organisation. 

R&D activities will focus on using CRISPR ex vivo for engineering chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CARTs) and haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Novartis gets exclusive rights to develop all collaboration programs focused on engineered CARTs and the right to develop an undisclosed number of targets for ex vivo editing of HSCs, as well as non-exclusive rights for limited in vivo therapeutic applications of CRISPR systems. 

In return, Novartis is increasing its equity investment in Intellia, is making an upfront payment and will provide technology access fees and funding for R&D programs during the five-year term of the collaboration, and Intellia also stands to receive downstream success-based milestones and royalties (all undisclosed).

The collaboration and licensing agreement with Caribou is centred on using Caribou's foundational CRISPR platform and intellectual property as a research tool for drug discovery. Under the terms of the deal, Novartis is receiving non-exclusive rights to the CRISPR platform for research conducted during the partnership, and is providing funding for the one-year research program as well as an equity investment in the firm.

Further terms were not released.