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Editas CEO exits the CRISPR firm ahead of first clinical trial

Shares in company and competitors sink

editas

Gene-editing specialist Editas Medicine will have to start its first CRISPR clinical trial without the direction of president and CEO Katrine Bosley, who has resigned from the company.

Shares in the biotech lost almost a fifth of their value yesterday as investors reacted to the announcement, which gave no reason for Bosley’s departure. Editas has named board member Cynthia Collins as interim CEO after Bosley officially steps down on 1 March and has started the search for a permanent replacement.

Bosley also announced her decision on Twitter, but gave no insight into her reasoning or next steps, and the news also dragged down the share prices of other companies developing drugs based on CRISPR-Cas9, including CRISPR Therapeutics and Intellia which fell around 11% and 7%, respectively.

Bosley

The news comes less than a month after the Editas’ chief financial officer Andrew Hack revealed he would also be leaving the company on 1 March  to take the job of managing director at investment group Bain Capital, and a few months after chief medical officer Gerald Cox also stepped down.

The multiple departures and the timing of Bosley’s departure has inevitably raised eyebrows, It comes just after Editas announced new preclinical data had been published in the journal Nature Medicine on EDIT-101, the biotech’s lead CRISPR medicine for Leber congenital amaurosis 10 (LCA10), a genetically-driven form of blindness with no effective treatments.

EDIT-101 is also expected to become the of Editas’ gene-editing medicines to start clinical testing, as the company recently got approval for an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for a phase 1/2 trial of the drug from the FDA, after a delay of around a year caused by manufacturing issues.

The CRISPR-Cas9 technique involves introducing a break in a specific place within DNA to trigger a self-repair mechanism. However, instead of restoring the original sequence, CRISPR serves as a new template that can be used to change the sequence, allowing the genome to be edited on demand.

Editas is one of several companies striving to develop new therapies based on CRISPR-Cas9 or other technologies – such as zinc finger nucleases (ZFN) or TALEN – that can modify genes in vivo and are starting to make the transition from the lab to the clinic.

EDIT-101 is designed to be delivered directly into the eye and fix a mutation in the CEP290 gene found in LCA10 patients and restore normal CEP290 expression.

It’s due to be tested in 10-20 patients with LCA in the US and Europe later this year, with the assistance of partner Allergan which paid $15m for rights to the drug and another $25m on the FDA’s acceptance of the IND.

CRISPR’s road towards clinical applications hasn’t been wholly smooth. In the early days legal disputes over intellectual property broke out between the scientists who developed the platform – and their respective companies - and there have been ongoing concerns that the technology may not be as selective – and therefore safe – as initially thought.

CRISPR also came in for some terrible press after Chinese researcher Jiankui He reported last year that he had used the technique to edit the genomes of twin girls so they could not be infected with HIV – sparking international condemnation. He is said to be under house arrest as a news report from China suggest his work has resulted in a second pregnancy with a gene-edited embryo.

Article by
Phil Taylor

23rd January 2019

From: Marketing

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