Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX) has teamed up with Arbor Biotechnologies, which is a Cambridge biotech startup. The new development is in line with Vertex’s strategy of broadening its base in gene editing tech. This is not the first research partnership by the Boston-based biotech. Four months ago, it established another with CRISPR Therapeutics and word has it that there many more lined up.
Feng Zhang is one of the co-founders of the Arbor Biotechnologies. He is also one of the great minds behind gene editing and a core member of the Broad Institute.
The deal will be instrumental in developing treatments for five diseases
It has been very common for big pharmaceuticals to partner with startups. Nonetheless of them has something to offer the other. The overall mission of the deal is to help in developing treatments for five diseases. However, only one of the diseases is in the limelight; the cystic fibrosis while the other for will be announced later.
The partnership will enable Vertex to use Arbor’s protein biodiscovery platform. This will have a specific focus on high-throughput screening, machine learning, genome sequencing, and gene synthesis. It will also incorporate programmable DNA endonucleases. There is anticipation that all these activities will help in accelerating the development of innovative gene-editing therapies.
Terms of the deal include an upfront payment of $30 million by Vertex by Arbor. However, Vertex will also have the opportunity of investing $15 million in the startup’s next financing round. Arbor will get mid-single digit royalties on any drugs sold in the future.
Is Vertex taking control of the Pharmaceutical industry?
From the look of things, the Boston-based biotech seems to be on a mission to reap from the pharmaceutical industry. Its existing collaboration with CRISPR, the two are developing a treatment for two rare blood disorders. Vertex owns 10% stake in CRISPR having increased its investment. A three-drug cocktail expected to treat close to 90% of cystic fibrosis.
Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics was the first batch of companies to obtain an endorsement from the FDA in the launch of gene editing trial.