Dicerna, Archemix Team Up to Make Souped Up RNAi Combo Drugs

7/21/09Follow @xconomy

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals has set its sights on silencing problematic genes using what it calls the “second doorway” of RNA interference—an approach to the burgeoning field that other RNAi companies aren’t pursuing. But to get its drugs over the transom and where they need to go in the body, the Watertown, MA-based company will need a little help, and for that it has turned to Cambridge, MA-based Archemix.

The two firms have partnered up to develop combination treatments that will merge Archemix’s proprietary “aptamer” treatments with Dicerna’s gene-silencing drugs. Both companies hope the alliance will yield drugs that can precisely—and potently–home in on the molecular roots of disease. Specific financial terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, although Dicerna and Archemix will split the early development costs, and Dicerna has an option to get exclusive rights to take the new drugs through development, leaving the usual milestone payments and product royalties to Archemix if the collaboration bears fruit.

The idea behind RNAi-based drug development is to create specially engineered RNA molecules that selectively turn off disease-causing genes. Entrants to the field typically have to pay some sort of toll to Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY), which has an extensive RNAi IP estate, but Dicerna insists it has found a “second doorway.” Simply put, it’s designing drugs that are a little longer than so-called small interfering RNA molecules being developed by Alnylam and others—and which are therefore not covered by Alnylam’s patents. Dicerna says its drugs may have the added advantage of being more potent that other RNAi-based treatments.

Importantly, these slightly longer RNAi drugs can be made with a handle on them that allows them to be welded together with other drug compounds that could give them extra kick. … Next Page »

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