MDRNA signs deal with second Swiss major

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rna

US RNA interference (RNAi) specialist MDRNA has signed a non-exclusive licensing deal granting Swiss drug giant Novartis access to its liposomal siRNA delivery technology platform.

The Novartis deal, which will earn MDRNA $7.3m (€5.4m) in upfront fees, covers the firm’s DiLA2 platform which is employed to create novel liposomal delivery vectors for RNA molecules from amino acids.

In February, MDRNA agreed to grant Roche non exclusive license to use a portion of its technology platform, specifically the RNA constructs used in candidate gene silencing sequences, in the development of RNAi-based therapeutics.

MDRNA’s delivery system, which is covered by the Novartis agreement, is used to optimise the performance of liposome carriers used to transport RNA therapeutics to a desired target.The firm claims the system is particularly effective at transporting nucleic acid molecules to difficult to reach regions of the digestive tract.

MDRNA CEO J Michael French said that: "We are pleased to enter into this agreement with Novartis, a global leader in the field of RNAi-based therapeutics​," and added that the "DiLA2 technology for siRNA delivery is effective and efficient at silencing gene targets in the liver and jejunum​.

We have not observed any delivery related adverse effects in the liver as measured by typical serum chemistries or any significant increases in cytokine levels, which are hallmarks of cell damage,”​ French went on to say.

The two companies have also entered into a separate agreement that provides Novartis with an exclusive period to negotiate a research and development collaboration and broader licensing rights related to MDRNA's RNAi drug delivery platform.

While RNAi or gene silencing is seen as having great potential in addressing the root causes of disease, by stopping genes expressing the proteins responsible, effective delivery has been a major stumbling block because RNA molecules are readily degraded in vivo.

Novartis and Roche deals are undoubtedly a vote of confidence for MDRNA’s platform and may also indicate that Big Pharma is willing to make the necessary investment to develop high tech drugs in the face of dwindling pipelines.

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