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Eli Lilly to pay Beam up to $600 million for DNA-editing tech

Eli Lilly & Co. corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Eli Lilly & Co. is buying rights from Cambridge-based Beam Therapeutics to develop and commercialize treatments for heart disease that make use of an experimental gene-editing technology.

Lilly will pay Beam $200 million upfront and make a $50 million equity investment in the company, the companies said Tuesday in a statement. Lilly, which has deep expertise in heart disease, will pay as much as an additional $350 million if the programs hit certain goals.

Lilly’s shares rose 1.6 percent before US markets opened, while Beam’s gained 7.3 percent.

Lilly is acquiring some rights that Beam gained under an earlier deal with Verve Therapeutics Inc., which is testing a treatment for people with high cholesterol. Beam has exclusive rights to a gene-editing technique called base editing and had licensed its technology to Verve. Because it alters DNA in a highly targeted way, Beam says base editing carries less risk of side effects than other gene-editing tools, like Crispr.


Last week, Verve said US drug regulators lifted their hold on its application to start human testing of a base-editing treatment aimed at altering a cholesterol-raising gene in order to prevent heart attacks.

The deal gives Beam a much-needed cash infusion as challenges beset the biotech industry amid the fading pandemic. Earlier this month, the company said it was laying off about 100 employees, or roughly 20 percent of its staff, and pausing development of a treatment for hepatitis B virus.

This story was produced with the assistance of Bloomberg Automation.

With assistance from Madison Muller.