Original deal was inked in January and covers oncology.

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals and Kyowa Hakko Kirin are expanding their research partnership into immunologic and inflammatory diseases. Dicerna will receive a cash payment for exercise by Kyowa Hakko Kirin of an option to bring an additional target into the collaboration.

In January 2010, the companies inked a research collaboration and license agreement reportedly worth up to $1.4 billion. Dicerna initially received $4 million to develop oncology drugs against one target based on its Dicer Substrate Technology and Dicer Substrate siRNA (DsiRNA) molecules. The deal included the option to include additional targets and expand into other therapeutic areas.

“Immunology and inflammation are strategically important fields of research for Kyowa Hakko Kirin, and we are committed to expanding our RNAi-focused research and development efforts with Dicerna into these additional therapeutic areas,” states Etsuo Ohshima, Ph.D., managing officer and vp, head, research division at Kyowa Hakko Kirin.

“We are very pleased with the relationship and progress of our collaboration with Dicerna to date and look forward to working closely with the company to develop DsiRNA-based medicines that treat patients with unmet medical needs in these disease areas.”

Dicer is an enzyme involved in the RNAi gene-silencing cascade. It acts as the natural initiation point for this pathway by processing double-stranded RNA so that it can be used for gene silencing. Dicer then delivers these modified small RNA molecules to the mature gene-silencing complex.

Dicerna’s DsiRNA molecules are 25 or more base pairs in length and are processed by Dicer. By utilizing this early entry point into the pathway, DsiRNA molecules have greater potency and longer duration of action than other RNAi approaches, the firm points out. In addition, DsiRNA molecules have enhanced delivery potential because their structure creates a natural conjugation point for cellular targeting agents, Dicerna adds.

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