Maija McManus

Fierce BioTech: Chutes & Ladders—Intellia’s clinical head moves to Casebia to be its first CMO

Maija McManus
Fierce BioTech: Chutes & Ladders—Intellia’s clinical head moves to Casebia to be its first CMO

by Conor Hale

Intellia Therapeutics’ head of clinical development, Adel Nada, M.D., has left the gene-editing hopeful to serve as the first chief medical officer of Casebia Therapeutics, a joint venture launched by Bayer and CRISPR Therapeutics.

Adel Nada (Casebia)

Headquartered down the street from Intellia in Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Kendall Square, Casebia was formed in 2016 with the goals of tackling blood disorders, blindness and congenital heart disease using CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

Intellia, meanwhile, was backed early by Novartis to employ CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing against a range of targets. The former Fierce 15 winner’s preclinical pipeline is currently pursuing in vivo applications against certain genetic diseases, as well as ex vivo in treatments for immuno-oncology, autoimmune disorders and sickle cell disease.

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At the same time as the move, Intellia disclosed in its third-quarter earnings report that it had pushed back its plans to submit its IND for human studies in transthyretin amyloidosis, or ATTR, from the end of 2019 to some point in 2020.

The company said it would instead pursue confirmatory studies based on new data from studies in primates, related to the cargo components of its lipid nanoparticle-based delivery system. Changes to the modular in vivo platform had resulted in a 78% average reduction in transthyretin proteins after three weeks, Intellia said, adding that it plans to apply these technology changes to the rest of its preclinical in vivo product pipeline.

However, that news came out alongside a Nature Medicine study that showed high percentages of its 48 participants had a preexisting immunity to Cas9, or had already developed antibodies against the DNA-editing enzyme. A similar paper in January found that the most widely used homologs of the Cas9 protein, derived from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes, are linked to immune responses built up over time, undercutting the therapeutic effectiveness of the technology.

RELATED: Intellia's gene-editing ATTR treatment cuts abnormal proteins in monkeys

At Casebia, Nada will also serve as head of translational science and clinical development, help guide the company’s overall R&D strategy, and hold a seat on Casebia’s executive leadership team. Its pipeline is similarly in the early research and discovery phases, with several undisclosed indications using both in vivo and ex vivo modalities, alongside programs in hemophilia, severe combined immunodeficiency and IPEX syndrome.

“Adel brings an unparalleled level of experience in gene editing and cell therapies, as well as broad experience in hematology, drug discovery and translational drug development,” James Burns, Ph.D., president and CEO of Casebia, said in a statement.

“His track record of accomplishment at many leading biopharmaceutical companies speaks to his unique abilities in advancing drug candidates in a broad range of therapeutic modalities,” Burns said.

Before Intellia, Nada was VP of immunotherapy at Caladrius Biosciences, previously known as NeoStem. Prior to that, he served as senior medical director of cardiovascular cellular therapies at Baxter Healthcare and held multiple positions at Abbott Laboratories, including as medical director of several clinical development teams.