BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Cellectis SA filed a preliminary prospectus with the French Financial Markets Authority with a view to launching an initial public offering on the Alternext market of the Paris Euronext stock exchange.

Cellectis is a genome engineering company that utilizes a proprietary technology centered around meganucleases, which it describes as "molecular scissors" consisting of sequence-specific endonucleases with large recognition sites that permit very accurate editing of genetic sequences. Cellectis is developing meganuclease recombination systems (MRS) that combine these molecular scissors with a DNA matrix, making it possible to target a particular gene and modify it in vivo through the cell's natural maintenance and repair system without damaging the rest of the genome.

Cellectis claims that, by developing this technology on an industrial scale for the first time, it can insert, modify, modulate or correct in vivo a gene in any living organism with great accuracy and reliability and without the adjunction of foreign genes that often are insufficiently specific and poorly tolerated. The company currently has eight MRSs in development.

Cellectis holds a portfolio of 27 patents, and has filed another 69 patent applications. Since it was founded in 2000, the company has raised a total of €17.5 million (US$23.2 million) in two funding rounds completed in 2000 and 2002. Its main investors are AGF Private Equity, of Paris; BankInvest Biomedical Venture, of Copenhagen, Denmark; Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, of Paris, Kaminvest Holding, of Lyon, France; and Odyssée Venture, of Paris.

It is engaged in collaborations with 45 biopharmaceutical and crop science companies around the world, including AstraZeneca, Merck & Co., Wyeth, Genentech, Regeneron, Bayer, DuPont and BASF. Its most recent collaboration agreement was signed in July with Lexicon Genetics Inc., of The Woodlands, Texas, which granted Cellectis a worldwide, nonexclusive commercial sublicense for the use of its isogenic DNA technology for homologous recombination in eukaryotic cells by double-stranded break methodology. In return, Cellectis granted Lexicon Genetics an exclusive worldwide license to its technology for the specific replacement or insertion of a gene in a eukaryotic genome. The license applies to the use of Cellectis' technology in combination with internal ribosome entry site (IRES) or isogenic DNA technology in the generation of genetically modified mice.

Lexicon already held a nonexclusive license to Cellectis' technology for the insertion of markers of gene expression and the generation of knock-out mice to complement its own gene-targeting technologies. The new license grants Lexicon exclusive rights to make, use, sell and import genetically engineered mice generated from the use of this technology in combination with IRES or isogenic DNA technology.

Cellectis, based at the Biocitech science and technology park in the Paris suburb of Romainville, currently employs about 40 people.