Giving RNAi some lip service

RXi Pharma obtains exclusive worldwide license to technology for the oral RNAi delivery

Jeffrey Bouley
Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify
WORCESTER, Mass.—Finding a convenient, safe, easy and comfortable way to deliver RNAi therapeutics, and to do so with any kind of systemic effect, has been a sore point for a while now for many researchers. RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp. believes it may have the breakthrough necessary to get over that hump, thanks to the licensing of  exclusive worldwide rights from the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) to certain technology for oral delivery of RNAi therapeutics. 

The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Czech, professor and chair of the Program in Molecular Medicine at UMMS and an RXi founder, and Dr. Gary R. Ostroff, professor of molecular medicine at UMMS and an RXi collaborator. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"The development of technology that potentially enables oral delivery represents a truly dramatic advance for the field of RNAi therapeutics, and could open up significant market opportunities for RXi," says Dr. Tod Woolf, president and CEO of RXi Pharmaceuticals. "We view this license as a major step toward our goal of developing such drugs as it allows us to potentially target a new class of cells that cannot be accessed either by traditional RNAi delivery methods, local administration or injection. In particular, we believe that UMMS' oral delivery technology, which targets certain types of inflammatory cells called macrophages, may allow us to develop orally administered rxRNA compounds for the treatment of a variety of significant inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Crohn's disease, atherosclerosis, psoriasis and Type II diabetes."

Woolf says the RNAi is encapsulated in a particular manner that allows it to move through the gut and through the lumen of the gut so that it is engulfed by macrophages and distributed throughout a patient as those macrophages migrate through the body.

"Essentially, it's like a Trojan horse to get RNAi out of the guy and through the body, using natural processes," he says.

Focusing on inflammation is important in part because "some of the most advanced and successful anti-inflammatory drugs currently on the market require injection," Woolf says, so "an orally administered RNAi compound could have significant competitive advantages for both patients and physicians."

The company already has successful methods for delivering RNAi therapeutics, he notes, and—while this license is an exciting new direction—the company's future doesn't hinge on the success of this oral delivery model.

"We certainly haven't been waiting on orally available RNAi; most people weren't expecting something like this. I know I wasn't," Woolf says. "But it adds greatly to what we already have, meaning we have one of the most comprehensive RNAi therapeutic technology platforms in the industry."

Jeffrey Bouley

Published In:

Subscribe to Newsletter
Subscribe to our eNewsletters

Stay connected with all of the latest from Drug Discovery News.

January 2024 DDN Magazine Issue

Latest Issue  

• Volume 20 • Issue 1 • January 2024

January 2024

January 2024 Issue