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Dr. Andy Scharenberg co-led Seattle Children’s Program in Cell and Gene Therapy before joining Casebia as its chief scientific officer. (Seattle Children’s Photo)

The Seattle Children’s Research Institute announced Wednesday that it has licensed a new gene therapy technology to Cambridge, Mass.,-based biotech company Casebia Therapeutics.

Seattle Children’s and Casebia also announced they will work together to further develop the technology and use it to create new treatments and preventions for autoimmune diseases.

The approach uses CRISPR Cas9 gene editing technology to genetically alter T-cells, an essential part of the immune system. The result is a type of T-cells called Tregs, which researchers hope could be used to combat autoimmune diseases and potentially a variety of other diseases.

Dr. David Rawlings leads Seattle Children’s Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies and worked on the technology licensed Wednesday. (Seattle Children’s Photo)

The tech is based on work by Dr. David Rawlings, who leads Seattle Children’s Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies, and Dr. Andrew Scharenberg, who co-led the Program in Cell and Gene Therapy before joining Casebia as its chief scientific officer.

“This collaboration between Seattle Children’s and Casebia will accelerate the work that David Rawlings and I have led over the last decade to create new ways of selectively engaging the immune system in the fight against a wide range of diseases,” Scharenberg said in a press release.

“Tregs represent a potentially significant improvement to current therapies for autoimmune disorders, which induce broad-scale immune system suppression that limits their therapeutic utility. I am thrilled to combine this promising work with the gene editing know-how and resources at Casebia,” he said.

The news underlines a trend that has dogged the Seattle region for decades: Despite being home to innovative, world-class research institutions, the area has struggled to build a thriving biotechnology industry.

A study published earlier this year showed that Washington state has dropped life sciences jobs significantly in the past three years, and the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center just licensed an important immunotherapy technology to New York-based company Mustang Bio.

Seattle Children’s estimated the new partnership and license deal could bring in over $12 million in funding for the nonprofit research organization.

Casebia originated from a collaboration between Bayer and CRISPR Therapeutics. The company is focused on developing and commercializing CRISPR Cas9 technologies in medical settings, specifically autoimmune diseases, blindness, bleeding disorders, hearing loss and heart disease.

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