Marina Biotech said today it holds an option to exclusively license its SMARTICLES platform in a genome editing technology, under an evaluation and option agreement whose potential licensee, value, and other details were not disclosed.

The agreement comes just a day after Marina said it will explore a range of strategic alternatives it hopes will increase shareholder value and generate more funding for clinical and preclinical programs.

J. Michael French, Marina’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the agreement reflects an expansion into areas other than nucleic acid therapeutics, where the company asserts that SMARTICLES is the most widely licensed delivery technology.

“We hope that the unique properties of SMARTICLES opens novel therapeutic opportunities for patients with unmet needs,” French said.

SMARTICLES uses amphoteric liposomes composed of unique combinations of lipids having anionic and cationic groups that work together to enable cell uptake, provide serum stability, and provide pH-triggered endosomal escape. SMARTICLES is designed to deliver both single-stranded and double-stranded nucleic acid payload.

Two companies have agreed to license SMARTICLES from Marina: ProNAi Therapeutics, which focuses on DNA interference (DNAi) therapies for cancer, and Mirna Therapeutics, which specializes in microRNA (miRNA) replacement therapy for cancer. SMARTICLES has been used in clinical studies of drug candidates by both licensees involving a combined 130 patients, Marina said.

Under its license agreement with ProNAi, Marina could receive up to $14 million for each gene target in total upfront, clinical, and commercialization milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales, with ProNAi having the option to select any number of additional gene targets. ProNAi also has full responsibility for developing and commercializing any products arising under the agreement.

From Mirna, Marina could receive up to $63 million in total upfront, clinical, and commercialization milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales, based on a successful outcome. Mirna has full responsibility for development and commercialization of any products, while Marina Biotech has agreed to support pre-clinical and process development efforts.

SMARTICLES is one of Marina’s two drug delivery technologies in clinical development. The other is TransKingdom RNAi, which uses non-pathogenic bacteria engineered to produce, deliver, and release various therapeutic molecules, including interfering RNA mediators such as short hairpin RNA and microRNA mimics, as well as other therapeutics to targeted tissue.

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