CRISPR Therapeutics plans Nasdaq launch

CRISPR Therapeutics, the Swiss genome-editing company, has filed for a $90 million initial public offering.

The company is just the last company using the cutting-edge CRISPR/Cas9 technique to launch an IPO this year.

Among these rivals are Editas, which launched a successful $96 million IPO in February, while Intellia achieved an $108 million listing in May.

Research into gene editing is hotting up – as evidenced by last week’s announcement from Fulcrum Therapeutics that it has signed a deal with Horizon Discovery Group, focusing on treatments for genetic diseases.

CRISPR Therapeutics, which plans to launch on the New York-based Nasdaq exchange, has a number of promising preclinical projects, including treatments for haemophilia, the metabolic disorder Hurler syndrome, and the combined immunodeficiency known as “bubble boy disease”.

Previously disclosed gene-editing projects target sickle-cell disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the rare blood disorder beta-thalassemia.

Founded in 2012, the company has raised nearly $200 million in venture capital funding, and has signed a $75 million agreement with Vertex that has led to development of candidates for beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease, although a lead product has yet to be identified.

The company also has a joint venture with Bayer, to research treatments for blood disorders, blindness, heart disease and other indications.

However the company warned that product revenue will “not occur for many years” as its CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology is in its infancy as a therapy.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the biotech also warned of other pitfalls including rival products beating it to market, issues with pricing and reimbursement, conflicts with collaborators, and partners potentially controlling clinical trials.

Although CRISPR/Cas9 is a potentially cheap way of using gene editing technology to discover new drugs, developing therapeutics based on the technology is a much trickier proposition.

CRISPR/Cas9 has already been used to create genetically engineered cells that exhibit disease characteristics, and has been used to help develop drugs such as Pfizer’s Xalkori (crizotinib) for lung cancer.

However there are unresolved issues with CRISPR  – such as the high likelihood of the technology cleaving DNA strands in the wrong place, before insertion of the new gene.

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