Under the terms of the partnership the two companies will collaborate on the discovery, development and commercialisation of new medicines using Santaris’ Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA) drug platform.
Santaris claims its LNA platform enables specific targeting and regulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) and messenger RNAs (mRNAs), which is an area Wyeth has been making efforts to establish itself in.
Mikael Dolsten, president, Wyeth Research, said: "With this alliance Wyeth explores a fourth platform technology targeting RNAs, which complements our expertise in small molecules, vaccines and protein-based therapeutics.
"This will increase our ability to develop and bring to market innovative, high-value medicines that have the potential to address significant unmet needs in critical therapeutic areas."
The deal will see Wyeth select RNA targets that Santaris will develop drug candidates for using its LNA platform, with the pharma major responsible for the development and commercialisation of products arising from the alliance.
Wyeth has made an upfront payment of $7m in cash and a $10m equity investment in Santaris. A further $83m may be paid in milestone payments for each of 10 potential targets. Santaris will also receive worldwide royalties from products that reach the market.
The research alliance is due to last for three years with Wyeth having the option to extend this by up to two years.
The LNA platform
Santaris claim that “LNA is the first true three-dimensional analogue of RNA”, which can be incorporated into oligonucleotides to enhance binding affinity to complementary RNA sequences.
When applied to mRNA this increased affinity results in RNA degradation and reduction in protein synthesis occurring more efficiently.
This gives the therapeutic increased potency, resistance to degradation, a long half life and ensures it is readily taken up by tissues, according to Santaris.