In a contract worth up to $1.35 billion, drugmaker Pfizer will partner with gene-editing specialist Beam Therapeutics to explore medicines for rare genetic illnesses.

The firm said on Monday that Beam would get a $300 million upfront payment and will head research operations until three novel therapeutic targets are selected for development outside of the firm's existing programs.

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Pfizer will subsequently be in charge of the targets' research and regulatory activities, with the prospect of obtaining exclusive, global rights for each.

Beam, a biotech company that went public in February 2020, develops solutions for uncommon genetic illnesses using gene-editing technology.

Gene therapies are the world's most expensive pharmaceuticals because they try to treat specific diseases by replacing the missing or defective version of a gene found in a patient's cells with healthy ones.

Beam partnered with Apellis Pharmaceuticals for six research studies last year.

Beam will be entitled to 35 % of all net income and costs if it decides to co-develop and co-commercialize any target under the Pfizer agreement.

Under the agreement, Beam is also eligible to receive royalties on net sales for each target. The agreement has a four-year initial duration and can be extended for another four years.