Sanofi is upping its investment in gene editing, expanding an existing collaboration with California-based Scribe Therapeutics with a $40 million deal.
Scribe and Sanofi initially inked a partnership in September for the pharmaceutical company to gain access to the startup's ex vivo gene editing technology. Its plan was to use the platform to develop cancer cell therapies.
Under the new deal, Sanofi gets to use Scribe's CRISPR-based gene editing technology to develop in vivo therapies as well.
“Everyone wants to bet on gene editing but the right players are betting in the right areas,” said Benjamin Oakes, Scribe’s co-founder and CEO.
As Scribe and Sanofi collaborated on cancer therapies, Oakes said “it became apparent” there were drug discovery opportunities to explore together.
Sanofi’s first target will be sickle cell disease, according to a Monday statement that was originally set to be released Tuesday morning.
Scribe is eligible for payments of up to $1.2 billion if certain development and commercial milestones are hit.
“We’re encouraged by what we’ve accomplished to date with Scribe in creating ex vivo [natural killer] cell therapies,” Christian Mueller, global head of genomic medicine at Sanofi, said in a statement.
Spun out of CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna’s lab in 2017, Scribe has also struck deals with Prevail, an Eli Lilly subsidiary, and Biogen. Those collaborations focus on drug candidates for neurological diseases and ALS, respectively.
“They’re large players who can develop through the clinic and commercialize these drugs in ways that would likely be difficult for us to do,” Oakes said.
Scribe has raised $120 million across its Series A and B rounds, from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Avoro Ventures and OrbiMed.
Scribe has studied gene editing using casX enzymes — DNA-cutting proteins different than the more familiar cas9 — that the company hopes could make more specific and easily deliverable medicines.
Editor's note: This story has been updated after publication with comments from Scribe CEO Benjamin Oakes.