Pfizer Joins Beam in $1.4 Billion Genetic Therapy Alliance

Pfizer Joins Beam in $1.4 Billion Genetic Therapy Alliance


Pfizer Inc. will pay as much as $1.35 billion to partner with Beam Therapeutics Inc. on developing drugs for rare genetic diseases using base editing, a technology for manipulating DNA.

Beam will get $300 million upfront under the four-year agreement, the companies said Monday in a statement. The deal allows Pfizer to develop up to three drug candidates for rare genetic diseases of the liver, muscle and central nervous system that Beam will select.

Base editing is a technique for changing individual letters of genetic code, an approach that Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beam says can yield extremely precise modifications in the instructions for making cells and tissues. Because it alters DNA in such a targeted way, Beam says base editing carries less risk of side effects than genome-editing approaches like Crispr.

The development of Crispr won the 2020 Nobel Prize for two prominent researchers and launched a bevy of biotech companies seeking their first approved drug based on the technology. While Crispr can remove and replace specific DNA sequences, it’s prone to off-target effects that may lead to unwanted results in therapies.