Vertex (VRTX) Inks Licensing Deal With CRISPR for Diabetes Drug

Vertex Therapeutics VRTX announced that it is entering into a new non-exclusive licensing agreement with CRISPR Therapeutics CRSP for the use of the latter’s gene-editing technology, CRISPR/Cas9. The purpose of the licensing agreement is to accelerate the development of Vertex’s hypoimmune cell therapies for type I diabetes (T1D).

In the past year, shares of Vertex have risen 19.6% against the industry’s 16.7% decline.

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Per the terms of the agreement, Vertex is liable to pay CRISPR an upfront amount of $100 million for the non-exclusive rights to the latter’s technology for the development of hypoimmune gene-edited cell therapies for T1D. CRISPR Therapeutics is also entitled to additional payments of up to $230 million in research and development milestones as well as receive royalties on any future products resulting from this agreement.

Per the agreement, CRISPR and ViaCyte, Inc. will continue to collaborate on the existing gene-edited allogeneic stem cell therapies, using ViaCyte cells, for the treatment of diabetes. Vertex acquired ViaCyte in the third quarter of 2022. A phase I/II study of VCTX211, an allogenic, gene-edited, stem cell-derived product candidate for T1D, which was part of the CRISPR and ViaCyte collaboration, has been initiated.

Vertex already has two diabetes treatment candidates currently in its portfolio along with its hypoimmune program. The two diabetes treatment candidates are VX-880 and VX-264. In 2021, Vertex initiated a phase I/II study on VX-880, which is currently ongoing, evaluating the candidate in participants with T1D mellitus and impaired awareness of hypoglycemia and severe hypoglycemia.

Earlier this month, Vertex also announced the FDA clearance of its investigational new drug application for VX-264. VX-264 is a stem cell-derived, fully differentiated pancreatic islet cell therapy encapsulated into a Vertex-developed, immunoprotective device with the potential to treat T1D. Following the FDA clearance, Vertex plans to initiate a phase I/II study on VX-264, in the first half of 2023, to evaluate the safety, tolerability and efficacy of the candidate in patients with T1D.

However, per the terms of the licensing agreement between Vertex and CRISPR, the latter will not obtain any interest in Vertex’s pre-existing pipeline of T1D products, including VX-880 and VX-264.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated Price and Consensus

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated Price and Consensus

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated Price and Consensus

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated price-consensus-chart | Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated Quote

Zacks Rank and Stocks to Consider

Vertex currently has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

Some better-ranked stocks in the same industry are Aptinyx APTX and Annovis Bio ANVS, both carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) at present. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

In the past 90 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for Aptinyx’s 2023 loss per share has narrowed from 77 cents to 56 cents. In the year so far, the shares of Aptinyx have declined 94.8%.

APTX beat estimates in the each of the trailing four quarters, delivering an average earnings surprise of 9.53%.

In the past 90 days, the consensus estimate for Annovis’ 2023 loss per share has narrowed from $2.94 to $2.93. In the year so far, the shares of Annovis have risen 31.8%.

ANVS’ reported loss per share was narrower than the estimated loss per share in the last reported quarter, leading to an earnings surprise of 20.51%.

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