Long-term relationship

Pfizer, Santaris expand RNA research deal

Amy Swinderman
HOERSHOLM, Denmark—On the second anniversary of theirongoing collaboration on the development of RNA-targeted medicines, Pfizer Inc.and Santaris Pharma A/S have elected to extend their working relationship asPfizer looks to partner with innovative companies to explore novel drug designtechnologies as a potential source for breakthrough therapeutics.
 
The newly expanded alliance builds on a deal signed inJanuary 2009 by Santaris and Wyeth, which was then acquired by Pfizer.Santaris, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, focuses on the researchand development of mRNA and microRNA targeted therapies, a promising new classof therapeutics that are enabling scientists to develop drugs to work throughtargets thought to be inaccessible to small molecules and monoclonalantibodies.
 
While RNA-targeted therapies typically involve twoapproaches—single-stranded, or antisense approaches, and double-strandedapproaches often referred to as siRNA—Santaris' Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA) DrugPlatform and single-stranded LNA chemistry may deliver on the promise ofRNA-targeted therapies by overcoming the limitations of these earliertechnologies, Santaris says. The company says the small size and high affinityachievable with its technology allows LNA-based drugs to potently andspecifically inhibit RNA targets in different tissues without the need forcomplex delivery vehicles.
 
Under its original agreement with Wyeth/Pfizer, Santarisreceived an upfront payment of $7 million in cash as well as a $10 millionequity investment. That investment has paid for Pfizer, which in the past twoyears has advanced several programs and reached a number of early milestones.Santaris continues to be eligible to receive milestones and royalties under theoriginal alliance.
 
"We have been encouraged by the progress of ouroligonucleotide collaboration with Santaris Pharma and are eager to explorethis expanded partnership for potential additional LNA-based drug projects,"said Mikael Dolsten, president of worldwide research and development at Pfizer,in a statement.
 
The new agreement calls for Pfizer to pay Santaris $14million for access to the LNA technology. Santaris now stands to gain up to $600million in milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales of products thatmay be developed for up to 10 new RNA targets selected by Pfizer.
 
The expanded alliance with Pfizer "is a result of oursuccessful collaboration over the last two years and provides further evidencethat our LNA Drug Platform is rapidly becoming the technology-of-choice forpartners interested in developing RNA-targeted medicines," said Søren Tulstrup,president and CEO of Santaris, in a statement. "The LNA Drug Platform is wellpositioned to deliver viable drug candidates today, and we are excited toexpand our relationship with Pfizer to pursue our goal of making RNA-targeteddrugs for important diseases a reality."
 
In June 2010, Santaris entered into a similar deal with Boulder,Colo.-based miRagen to use the LNA technology to select drug candidates againstmiRagen's proprietary microRNA targets for the treatment of cardiovasculardisease.


Amy Swinderman

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