Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Roche Nabs Mirus Bio’s RNAi Therapeutics Delivery Technology
You may think it is because I live in an RNAi Therapeutics bubble, but the Roche-Genentech press release and conference call to me clearly shows that a major motivation for the proposed taking private of Genentech was to broaden their RNAi Therapeutics efforts by bringing in a company with deep immunology and personalized cancer know-how, as well as being able to leverage Genentech’s monoclonal antibody capabilities for targeted RNAi Therapeutics delivery.
To this they now add for $125M, a sum that makes related companies look very cheap in comparison, the privately held Madison, Wisconsin, nucleic acid delivery company Mirus Bio. The jewel of Mirus Bio is their Dynamic PolyConjugates (DPCs), small, flexible designer particles for the targeted systemic delivery of siRNAs. Although the technology is relatively young and data scarce, from the PNAS publication last year (reviewed here in the RNAi Therapeutics blog) and conference presentations, DPCs are very competitive with liposomal technologies for delivery to the liver. Also very attractive from a safety and efficacy point-of-view is their apparent ability to selectively target silencing either to hepatocytes or Kupffer cells in the liver, depending on whether glucose or galactose-derivatives were attached. Although I haven’t seen data beyond the liver, the small size and modularity suggests that with the appropriate pharmacology it could well have applications for a number of other tissue types and organs and nicely complement larger nanoparticle delivery technologies.
It’s unlikely to be a coincidence that Roche is making all these moves in such short order. What has started with an IP license from Alnylam for basic access to RNAi mechanism of action, within 2 days they have now added to that one of the most coveted delivery technologies and scientific depth. The rapid moves by Roche means that fellow Big Pharmas like Pfizer, which had a non-exclusive license to DPCs, and Merck which had probably also been very interested in DPCs, now risk falling behind on delivery while their core RNAi IP has either not been secured yet (Pfizer) or is at best uncertain (Sirna Therapeutics/Merck). From a strategic perspective, it will be interesting whether due to their close relationships there will be any sharing/coordination of DPC technology with Alnylam and Tekmira, and for which indications Roche will employ the two leading delivery technologies (DPCs and SNALPs) both of which it has now immediate access to.
Today's acquisition is yet another piece of evidence that Roche is building their future on RNAi Therapeutics in a big and bold way. It's also encouraging that this comes a year after the Alnylam platform licensing agreement and suggests that they must have been pleased with what they have seen since.
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