- As part of its immunotherapy R&D program, Juno Therapeutics will leverage Editas' CRISPR-Cas9 platform to engineer T cells in cancer patients.
- Juno is attempting to change the standard of care for treating blood cancer with its CAR-T immunotherapy, in which a patient's own T-cells are modified, re-injected, and deployed to attack their cancer.
- Juno will pay Editas $25 million upfront, followed by $22 million in payments over a five-year period for additional R&D support. In addition, Editas could end up earning $230 million or more for each successful program.
Juno's goal is to improve upon its blood cancer research program, which is focused on various types of hard-to-treat leukemias and lymphomas, and has shown noteworthy success in early-stage clinical trials. The purpose of using T cells, versus small molecules and antibodies, is to be able to attack tissues where cancer might be hiding out.
However, leveraging these cells therapeutically is very complex. That's where the CRISPR-Cas9 platform comes in. The goal is to leverage the gene-editing abilities of this platform in order to direct T-cell activity towards specific therapeutic ends.
Both Juno and Editas are small companies playing in a big sandbox, and Juno is not the only CAR-T-focused company using the CRISPR-Pas9 platform. Novartis, which has partnered with Intella to use its CRISPR-Cas9 platform, is working on a competing program.