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Vertex Signs Gene Editing Deals With Crispr, Exonics Worth Up To $2 Billion

Shanthi Rexaline

Gene editing is an emerging field, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ: VRTX)  is plunging headlong into it with two deals announced Thursday after the market close. 

Expanded Collaboration, Licensing Deal With Crispr

Vertex said it has expanded a collaboration agreement with Crispr Therapeutics AG (NASDAQ: CRSP), a Swiss gene editing company developing gene therapies using its proprietary CRISPR/Cas9 platform.

Vertex also entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Crispr to discover and develop gene editing therapies for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or DMD, and Dystrophy Type 1, or DM1.

Vertex has agreed to pay Crispr $175 million upfront, with the latter eligible to receive up to $1 billion inclusive of the upfront payment and potential future milestone payments.

Exonics Buy

Vertex also announced an agreement to buy privately held Exonics, which focuses on gene editing therapies to repair mutations that cause DMD and other severe neuromuscular diseases. Exonics shareholders will receive about $1 billion, including $245 million in upfront and potential future payments.

Exonics is experienced in SingleCut CRISPR to genetically repair and restore dystrophin, the key protein missing in children with DMD.

Both transactions are expected to close in the third quarter of 2019.

Vertex also announced the appointment of gene therapy veteran John Gray, a former Audentes Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: BOLD) executive, as senior vice president of genetic therapies effective June 17.

Crispr shares were trading up by 17.4 percent to $43.67 at the time of publication Friday, while Vertex shares were higher by 1.53 percent at $170.31. 

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