Friday, December 30, 2011

Dicerna Ends Year on Positive Note

With the Notice of Allowance of a US patent application covering its basic Dicer-substrate RNAi trigger technology and a $5M milestone payment from Kyowa Hakko Kirin (KHK) due to the formal initiation of development work for a Dicer-substrate oncology candidate by its Japanese partner, Dicerna can look optimistically into the New Year. These events also symbolize some of the important shifts that have taken place over the last 3 years, namely the increasing choice between RNAi trigger technologies and the increasing importance of Asia in the industry.

Dicer-substrate patent

The patent that is about to formally issue covers methods related to knocking down genes in mammalian cells using certain 25-30 base-pair double-stranded RNAs that undergo Dicer processing before incorporation into the RISC gene silencing complex and target cleavage. While not gate-keeping for Dicer-substrates, the patent will give Dicerna considerable clout over this particular gene silencing approach and has an expiration of at least 2025 if not a year or two longer following patent term adjustments. It is interesting to speculate that the Allowance was also a trigger for the $5M milestone payment.

New oncology candidate formulated in KHK delivery tech

The press release on the $5M milestone noted that while the RNAi trigger of the candidate that is at the center of the $5M milestone payment is licensed from Dicerna (possibly targeting KLF5), the drug delivery tech would be KHK’s own. Based on comments made in early 2010 when Dicerna and KHK first announced their collaboration plus quite a few liposome-related patent apps by KHK, it is likely that the delivery tech relates to a cationic liposomal formulation. I would be a bit wary though about the novelty and strength of these liposomes since at least the patent apps merely claim cationic LNP formulations of chemical compositions that have been known for years in the art an manufacturing method that may be somewhat unique to KHK, but maybe too complex for industrial applicability. Moreover, the described approach lacked the scientific rigor that I would expect of a company that intends to enter clinical development soon.

Dicerna employs Tekmira SNALP delivery

Dicerna has also been saying to be developing delivery technologies, including LNPs and another (actively) targeted delivery system. Interestingly, in an analytical assay development paper that has just been published (Jiao et al., 2011), Dicerna employed Tekmira’s SNALP delivery technology. It is unclear whether the SNALPs were reproduced based on the literature or whether there has been some sort of collaboration between the two companies. However, since Tekmira has been investigating a variety of non-Alnylam RNAi trigger technologies, the latter hypothesis is not that farfetched. The Allowance should provide further impetus for the two companies to work together more closely.

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By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

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