UPenn Treats First Cancer Patients in Crispr-Based Trial

(Bloomberg) -- Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center have infused two cancer patients with a Crispr-based medicine in another early human trial for the promising gene-editing technology.

Both patients’ cancers had relapsed before the start of the trial. One has multiple myeloma, and the other has sarcoma, Penn Medicine representative John Infanti said in an email. Funding for the trial is provided by Sean Parker’s Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and private firm Tmunity Therapeutics, he said.

Investors are closely watching developments in gene-editing technology, which has a range of applications and has only recently entered human testing. However, a string of scientific papers raising safety concerns and the reality of onerous clinical and regulatory hurdles, which put such therapies years away from U.S. approval, have been weighing on publicly traded Crispr stocks.

Last year, a Chinese researcher stunned scientists after claiming to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies, crossing an ethical frontier and prompting a backlash from health officials and other scientists.

Crispr Therapeutics AG, a Nasdaq-listed company that shares its name with the technology, and partner Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. are leading the Crispr race among public companies in the U.S. when it comes to clinical development, having dosed their first patient back in February. Some analysts are expecting initial data as soon as this year.

Shares of Crispr Therapeutics rallied on Tuesday, rising as much as 10 percent after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted fast-track designation to the company’s lead experimental treatment in a blood disorder.

The Penn Medicine study’s findings will be shared at a future medical meeting presentation or peer-reviewed publication, Infanti said.

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