CRISPR gene editing stocks fall after Editas CEO resigns

Shares in firms developing therapies based on CRISPR gene editing technology have fallen after the resignation of the CEO of one of the leading biotechs in the field, Editas.

Massachusetts-based Editas said Katrine Bosley has decided to step down from her role as president and CEO, on March 1 2019.

Bosley has been CEO of the firm for nearly five years and leaves just as the company prepares for its first clinical trial.

Katrine Bosley

While the biotech gave no reasons for Bosley’s departure, the assumption among investors is that something is amiss with the company’s technology, sparking a slump of almost 20% on the Nasdaq, to just under $21 a share.

Cynthia Collins, a member of Editas’ board and former CEO of Human Longevity Inc., has been appointed interim CEO until a permanent successor is found.

This had a knock-on effect on other listed biotechs developing CRISPR-based therapies – CRISPR Therapeutics and Intellia Therapeutics also saw their stocks fall in sympathy amid concerns that there might be an issue with the technology, which is used in genetic engineering but unproven as a therapy.

She joined Editas a year after it started with the goal of developing drugs that can “edit out” genetic abnormalities that cause rare disease.

Bosley oversaw Editas’ $94 million initial public offering (IPO) in 2016 and struck a deal with Allergan in 2017 to start a partnership to develop up to five experimental gene therapies for eye diseases.

This was followed by the FDA’s decision last month to give the green light for trials of Editas’ lead product, EDIT-101, a potential gene therapy for the inherited eye disorder Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) type 10.

CRISPR – or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats – technology can recognise specific DNA sequences that cause disease and cleave it using a protein/RNA complex.

Bosley also announced her departure in a series of tweets, but gave no further reasons for the decision, or any information about her next step.

Editas said it has appointed headhunters Heidrick & Struggles to find a successor, while Bosley will continue as an adviser until the end of the year during a transitional period.

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