Fujifilm acquires equity stake in EdiGene
OREANDA-NEWS. FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Kenji Sukeno) signed an agreement on December 19th for the investment of 470 million yen in EdiGene Corporation, a drug discovery startup, participating its series A round. As a result, Fujifilm will acquire 11.7% of EdiGene's total shares. Along with this equity investment, the companies have signed a joint research agreement aimed at discovering gene therapy drugs*.
The two companies aim to create gene therapy drugs that address unmet medical needs by combining Fujifilm's technology for liposomal formulations, which efficiently deliver active ingredients to an affected area, and EdiGene's genome** editing technology.
Genome editing technology uses a living organism's biological mechanism for cutting and adding, or deleting a gene. CRISPR-Cas9***, in particular, that has been discovered and established in recent years enables gene editing to be done far more efficiently, conveniently, and reliably than other technologies, and thus expected to be applied in a broad range of fields. In the pharmaceutical field, research and development are currently underway to use CRISPR-Cas9 with gene therapy drugs that directly approach and treat abnormal genes that cause hereditary diseases, many of which have not been possible to completely cure with conventional drugs.
EdiGene is a drug discovery startup originated from University of Tokyo, which is engaged in R&D on genome editing technology that has further improved CRISPR-Cas9, and in constructing next-generation drug discovery systems. The company has already established a proprietary technology to miniaturize Cas9 (an enzyme that is an important component of CRISPR-Cas9), which cuts a gene. It has been using this technology to carry out innovative activities in the genome editing field, such as discovering gene therapy drugs and advancing R&D therefor.
Fujifilm applies technologies such as advanced nano-dispersion technology, analysis technology, and process technology nurtured through photographic film business in research and development on liposomal formulations*4 that efficiently deliver active ingredients to an affected area. The anticancer agent FF-10832, in particular, whose clinical study is planned to begin next year, is a liposomal formulation that encapsulates marketed drugs*5 inside a uniform-sized liposome, enhancing the stability of the drug in the blood, promoting its accumulation at an affected area, and facilitating its release in the affected area. Experiments using mice confirm that FF-10832 has significantly superior medical efficacy, compared to marketed drugs not formulated with liposome, when administered at a lower dosage (one-sixtieth the dose).
In the joint research with EdiGene, Fujifilm aims to apply its accumulated liposomal formulation technologies to ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is used in genome editing, and create gene therapy drugs. Specifically, the company will optimize a liposome for the RNA designed and developed by EdiGene. It will then encapsulate, inside a liposome, RNA that is prone to be broken down in the blood, so as to enhance its stability in the blood. The company will also continue to step up R&D on gene therapy drugs, including confirming delivery to targeted cells and obtaining manifestation of functions in the cells.
Fujifilm aims to continue providing new solutions to unmet medical needs by creating new gene therapy drugs.
- * Drugs that use genes. Using genes that are administered with a virus, they increase or decrease target proteins in a cell, or perform genome editing function to rewrite targeted genes in the cell, with the aim of treating illnesses.
- ** All pieces of information on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) that govern genetic information.
- *** The latest genome editing technology whose application to mammalian cells was reported in 2013. Out of a massive volume of genome (approximately three billion bases), it recognizes only a specific gene accurately and easily, accomplishing editing operations such as deletion, replacement, and insertion. It uses Cas9, an enzyme having the function of a “pair of scissors,” which cuts a gene, and gRNA (guide RNA), which serves as a “guide” to transport the enzyme to a gene's target position. Combining these two, the enzyme binds to the targeted site, and cuts the gene.
- *4 Liposomes, which are minute particles, are phospholipids, an organic substance that comprises cellular membranes and biological membranes, in capsule form. It is a type of a Drug Delivery System (DDS), a technology that delivers the necessary volume of a drug to the part of the body where it is needed at the time it is needed. When drugs are contained within a capsule, they are called liposomal formulations.
- *5 An anticancer agent (generic name: gemcitabine; product name: Gemzar) developed by Eli Lilly and Company of the US. It is used as a first-line drug for pancreatic cancer, and also for treating a broad range of cancers including lung and ovarian cancers.