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Merck licenses CRISPR gene-editing technology to Evotec

The licence is to accelerate research, enable testing and development of new drugs

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Merck has announced that it has signed a license agreement providing Evotec SE access to Merck’s foundational CRISPR intellectual property. Evotec will use Merck’s CRISPR genome-editing technology to create edited cell lines for Evotec’s commercial and internal research purposes.

“This CRISPR licence is the impetus for important drug testing and discovery that promises to accelerate research and lead to the development of new therapies,” said Udit Batra, member, Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. He added, “Merck has been at the forefront of innovation in gene editing for 15 years and continues to work with industry and academia to solve complex problems using our patented CRISPR technology, both ethically and responsibly.”

Evotec plans to use Merck’s CRISPR intellectual property portfolio to develop precisely engineered assays to determine the biology and toxicity for potential drug candidates during the drug development cycle.

“Evotec is excited to continue its strong partnership with Merck through licensing their ground-breaking CRISPR technology,” said Craig Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer(COO), Evotec. Johnstone also said, “Our vision and passion for innovation includes using CRISPR technology to test and improve the efficacy of the new drugs we develop to bring relief to patients suffering from underserved conditions worldwide.”

This new license reinforces past collaborations between Merck and Evotec. In November 2016, the companies entered into a set of agreements whereby Evotec would provide screening services using Merck’s collection of genetic reagents including CRISPR and shRNA libraries. Combining access to Merck’s genome-editing libraries with Evotec’s screening expertise offers a faster path to explore and identify new drug targets. It holds 20 CRISPR-related patents worldwide in methods and composition, including the fundamental technology of CRISPR Cas9 for genetic integration in mammalian cells.

The company supports research with genome editing under careful consideration of ethical and legal standards. It has established an independent, external bioethics advisory panel to provide guidance for research in which its businesses are involved, including research on or using genome editing, and has also defined a clear operational position considering scientific and societal issues to inform promising therapeutic approaches for use in research and applications.

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