Roche said today it will acquire Santaris Pharma for up-to-$450 million, some seven months after the pharma giant and Danish-based biotech launched an up-to-$148 million-plus-per-product alliance designed to discover and develop RNA-targeted oligonucleotide therapeutics using Santaris’ locked nucleic acid (LNA) drug platform.
Founded in 2003, Santaris Pharma aims to address diseases that are difficult to treat with conventional drug modalities, such as antibodies and small molecules. The company has been developing a pipeline of LNA therapeutics designed to influence the production or activity of select RNA targets—both mRNA and microRNA—in many different tissues without the need for complex delivery vehicles.
LNA—also known as Bicyclic or Bridged Nucleic Acid (BNA)—is designed to overcome limitations that have hindered development of earlier antisense and siRNA technologies through smaller size, high binding affinity, and metabolic stability.
The platform has attracted interest from pharma and biotech partners. In April 2013, Bristol-Myers Squibb launched an up-to-$100 million-plus partnership with Santaris Pharma to develop LNA-based drugs. Six months later, Santaris won back rights to LNA that it had licensed to Enzon Pharmaceuticals during a seven-year cancer drug collaboration that could have netted Santaris more than $200 million.
Roche and Santaris inked their partnership deal in January, the same month Santaris joined GlaxoSmithKline in launching an LNA collaboration whose value was not disclosed.
“We believe the LNA platform provides the means to efficiently discover and develop an important new class of medicines that may address the significant needs of patients across multiple therapeutic areas,” John C. Reed, head of Roche Pharma Research and Early Development, said in a statement.
Roche has sought to develop RNA-based drugs on and off over the years, resuming interest in April 2013 by forming an up-to-$392 million alliance with Isis Pharmaceuticals aimed at fighting Huntington’s disease by developing treatments that combined Isis’ antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) technology with Roche’s “brain shuttle” program, with the objective of increasing the brain penetration of ASOs through systemic administration.
Roche said it plans to maintain Santaris Pharma’s operations in Denmark, where the company’s existing site will be renamed Roche Innovation Center Copenhagen.
Roche agreed to shell out $250 million upfront cash for Santaris, and up to another $200 million tied to achieving undisclosed milestones. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close later this month.
“Roche and Santaris Pharma have complementary capabilities that will help us realize breakthrough medicines,” stated J. Donald deBethizy, president and CEO of Santaris Pharma.