What happened

Shares of Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:NTLA) rose as much as 18% today after the company announced an expansion of its partnership with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:REGN)

The pair will jointly develop drug candidates to treat hereditary blood disorders hemophilia A and hemophilia B. Additionally, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals will gain rights to develop drug candidates using both in vivo (inside the body) and ex vivo (outside the body) drug candidates and delivery tools developed by Intellia Therapeutics. 

The gene editing pioneer will earn a combined up-front payment of $100 million in cash and equity. It ended March 2020 with roughly $250 million in cash. As of 11:05 a.m. EDT, the pharma stock had settled to a 12.1% gain.

Arrows rising up and to the right.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Investors have punished Intellia Therapeutics for falling behind peers CRISPR Therapeutics and Editas Medicine in clinical development. The company will be the last of the trio of CRISPR gene editing companies to enter clinical trials. While it told investors the delay was largely due to work on delivery technologies -- one of the most important components of a genetic medicine -- Wall Street didn't have much patience. 

As a result, Intellia Therapeutics boasts a market valuation of $1 billion, which is far behind the $3.9 billion valuation of CRISPR Therapeutics and the $1.5 billion market cap of Editas Medicine. 

Today's news might not completely remove doubt from the minds of investors, but it serves as a reminder that Regeneron Pharmaceuticals remains a committed development partner. If other CRISPR gene editing platforms stumble in the clinic because of a lack of attention to delivery technologies, Intellia Therapeutics might be rewarded for its slow-and-steady approach.

Now what

Things are finally heating up for Intellia Therapeutics. In addition to the expanded partnership with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced today, the gene editing pioneer announced in March that a sickle cell disease drug candidate being developed with Novartis had earned the green light for clinical trials from regulators. 

Meanwhile, the company's lead drug candidate is expected to begin a phase 1 clinical trial in the second half of 2020. Multiple other drug candidates are expected to earn regulatory permission in 2021 for clinical trials. There's a long way to go for Intellia Therapeutics, but investors will finally have tangible milestones to look forward to in the coming quarters.