Dicerna and Boehringer partner on RNAi treatment for NASH

Pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim International is partnering with Dicerna Pharmaceuticals $DRNA on a research and licensing deal to advance treatments for chronic liver diseases.

Dicerna gets $10 million in an upfront payment, and could receive up to an additional $191 million in potential milestone payments and R&D reimbursements.

Clive Wood

The duo will initially focus on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), also known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which has been a beacon for a slew of biopharma companies out to conquer a fast-growing ailment.

Dicerna is developing investigational RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics that could potentially treat NASH. Dicerna hopes its RNAi technology, called GalXC, can inhibit the expression of disease-causing genes by destroying the messenger RNAs of those genes.

The deal offers an endorsement of Dicerna’s platform tech, which has come under a fierce attack from their big rivals at the RNAi biotech Alnylam. Alnylam alleged that Dicerna illicitly gained trade secrets from some Sirna scientists it hired as Merck was shopping the company to Alnylam. Dicerna, though, recently fired back in federal court, claiming that the lawsuit was nothing but a sham aimed at icing partnerships just like the one announced today.

Paul Matteis at Leerink liked what he was seeing here:

We view this as early validation for DRNA’s GalXC platform, which will see their first drug, DCR-PHXC (primary hyperoxaluria), in the clinic early next year. As DRNA is in an ongoing litigation with ALNY (MP) over allegations of misappropriating trade secrets, it’s certainly encouraging that they were still able to precipitate a partnership. Recall that the courts have accepted DRNA’s counter claims and that a jury trial is slated for April of next year.

Boehringer, undeterred by the legal sparring, said Dicerna’s program is a good match for its cardiometabolic pipeline.

“Our research team is diligently working to discover effective new therapies for NASH and other chronic liver diseases, which is a priority area for us,” said Clive Wood, corporate senior vice president of discovery research at Boehringer Ingelheim, in a statement. “This partnership complements our existing research efforts and expertise and offers distinct advantages in developing exciting new therapy options.”

Boehringer has a portfolio of marketed drugs for cardiometabolic disease, including products for thromboembolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.

In addition to the potential $191 million in extra payments, Dicerna is eligible to receive royalties staggered up to double digits on worldwide net sales.

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Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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