BioPharma, Pharma

Moderna Signs On a New Partner in Quest for In Vivo mRNA Gene Editing

Moderna is partnering with Life Edit, a subsidiary of ElevateBio that offers a suite of gene-editing technologies. The deal brings together the capabilities of both companies, which aim to develop in vivo gene-editing therapies.Mod

dna, genomics

Moderna’s ambitions in messenger RNA technology include therapies that do their editing work inside the patient. To that end, the biotech company is starting an R&D collaboration with a division of ElevateBio that brings a new set of gene-editing tools to the effort.

Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Moderna’s mRNA platform will be paired with the gene-editing technologies of ElevateBio subsidiary Life Edit in the development of in vivo gene-editing therapies. Life Edit’s capabilities include base editing, which enables the targeting of a single base in the genome without making a double-stranded break in DNA.

Durham, North Carolina-based Life Edit also brings RNA-guided nucleases, the cutting enzymes used in gene editing. The companies say Life Edit’s nucleases are smaller compared to those conventionally used for editing, which offers the potential for more delivery versatility. Those nucleases were developed from a proprietary collection of non-pathogenic microbes. The Life Edit platform also offers the ability to deploy its editing capabilities more broadly across the genome.

The deal calls for Life Edit’s technologies to be combined with Moderna’s mRNA platform to develop gene-editing therapies for a set of therapeutic targets that were not disclosed. Financial details also were not disclosed. But the two companies will collaborate on research and preclinical studies funded by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna. If Moderna exercises an option for a target, it will cover the responsibility for developing, manufacturing, and commercialization. Life Edit will be eligible to receive milestone payments plus royalties from sales of any commercialized products that stem from the alliance.

“This collaboration between Life Edit and Moderna demonstrates the strength of our respective technologies to advance programmable medicines to more specifically target disease,” Mitchell Finer, CEO of Life Edit Therapeutics and President, R&D, of ElevateBio, said in a prepared statement.

Moderna already has an in vivo gene-editing alliance with Metagenomi, an Emeryville, California-based biotech that offers a technology toolbox based on CRISPR gene-editing systems. When that alliance was announced in 2021, financial details and disease targets were not disclosed. The Metagenomi pipeline currently lists one partnered Moderna program addressing an undisclosed metabolic disease target.

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Life Edit came from AgBiome, a developer of microbe-based crop protection products. Under Research Triangle Park, North Carolina-based AgBiome, the subsidiary called LifeEDIT deployed genome-editing technologies for the development of crop traits of high value to the agricultural sector. These technologies were also used in the research of products that could address genetic diseases in humans.

In 2020, Life Edit spun out of AgBiome. The following year, ElevateBio acquired Life Edit to add its gene-editing technologies. AgBiome retains rights to applications of Life Edit’s technologies outside of therapeutics for humans.

Photo: iLexx, Getty Images