Regulus Therapeutics and Biogen Idec established a collaboration to identify blood-based microRNAs as biomarkers for multiple sclerosis. The firms project such markers could be used to help select patients for clinical trials, as the basis of companion diagnostics, and for monitoring disease progression and relapse. Under terms of the deal Biogen Idec will make an up-front payment to Regulus and an equity investment in the firm.

“Utilizing innovative technology such as biomarkers can help us make more informed decisions earlier in clinical development and is key to our overall company strategy to enhance early-stage discovery efforts,” comments Steve Holtzman, executive vp for corporate development at Biogen Idec. “We’re excited to collaborate with Regulus to seek to identify biomarkers in MS patients, and are hopeful it can speed the work we’re doing to bring new, effective treatments to market for patients with MS.”

The agreement between Regulus and Biogen Idec comes just hours after Regulus reported signing a collaboration with AstraZeneca focused on the development of microRNA therapeutics against three targets in the fields of cardiovascular/metabolic diseases and oncology.

Biogen Idec has two multiple sclerosis drugs on the market. Tysabri® (natalizumab) achieved revenue of $280 million, in the second quarter of this year, while Avonex™ (interferon beta-1a) achieved revenues of $762 million. The firm’s mid-late-stage clinical pipeline includes a number of multiple sclerosis candidates. BG-12 (dimethyl fumarate) is a small molecule immune modulator currently undergoing regulatory review. A PEGylated interferon beta-1a is currently in Phase III development for relapsing forms of MS, and a humanized IL2-receptor antibody, daclizumab, is in Phase III studies in collaboration with Abbott for treating relapsing forms of MS. The humanized anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody ocrelizumab is in Phase II development in partnership with Roche’s Genentech for treating relapsing-remitting forms of MS.

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