Harnessing SNA for psoriasis

Purdue Pharma links up with Exicure in agreement to apply Exicure's SNA technology

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STAMFORD, Conn. & SKOKIE, Ill.—A new strategic research collaboration, option and license agreement is underway between Purdue Pharma L.P. and Exicure Inc., under which the companies will pursue the discovery and development of a treatment for psoriasis and other diseases that could be treated with a gene regulation approach. Purdue Pharma will, upon exercising its options, gain full worldwide development and commercial rights to AST-005, as well as rights to a trio of additional collaboration targets with associated intellectual property.
Per the terms of the agreement, Purdue has made an upfront payment to Exicure, and will also make an equity investment in the company. Exicure also stands to receive development, regulatory and commercial milestone compensation, and all told, all payments could total up to $790 million if all programs are developed. Exicure is also eligible to receive royalties on sales of any products resulting from the deal.
“This long-term strategic collaboration agreement represents a significant expansion of Purdue’s pipeline, and provides us with the potential to further our mission of developing novel therapies for patients with chronic conditions,” Mark Timney, president and CEO of Purdue Pharma, commented in a statement. “We look forward to combining Exicure’s SNA technology and deep expertise in this field with Purdue’s resources and expertise in clinical studies, regulatory affairs and commercialization for the benefit of patients.”
Exicure's Spherical Nucleic Acids (SNA) are nanoscale, spherical arrangements of densely packed and radially oriented nucleic acids. Their architecture enables them to overcome one of the most difficult obstacles faced by nucleic acid-based therapeutics: safe, effective delivery into target cells and tissues without the need for additional physical or chemical methods or components. SNAs are designed to be potent, highly targeted gene regulation and immune-modulatory agents, and the technology originated in the lab of Prof. Chad A. Mirkin at the Northwestern University International Institute for Nanotechnology.
AST-005, Exicure's lead compound, is an investigational, topically applied SNA that targets the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a mediator of psoriasis. A recent Phase 1 trial evaluated AST-005 in 15 patients with chronic plaque psoriasis for 10 days. The first trial with the compound reached safety and tolerability requirements in patients with mild to moderate psoriasis, with pharmacodynamic assessments conducted from the treated plaque area. While existing psoriasis treatments consist of oral drugs and non-targeted topical therapeutics, Exicure's SNA technology enables AST-005 to penetrate the epidermis and knock down TNF when applied topically.
“Given the broad potential of SNA technology, we want to forge long-term strategic relationships with best-in-class companies. As we were looking for a global leader with a proven track record in the development and global commercialization of treatments for patients with chronic conditions, we were very impressed with the Purdue Pharma’s clinical and commercial capabilities,” remarked Dr. David Giljohann, CEO of Exicure.
This agreement comes just a week after Purdue shared news of a collaboration with San Diego-based AnaBios Corporation to further research into non-opioid, non-NSAID compounds for treating chronic pain. Specifically, the companies will collaborate to accelerate development of Purdue's Nav1.7 sodium ion channel drug candidates by leveraging AnaBios' Phase-X discovery platform. The agreement will see Purdue license the rights to a suite of patents for Nav1.7 sodium ion channel blockers to AnaBios, which will apply its proprietary technology to de-risk the assets and select a clinical candidate. Purdue and AnaBios will form a joint steering committee to handle preclinical and clinical development of the lead molecule, and will jointly own any intellectual property developed under the agreement.

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