Santaris Pharma said today it joined Roche in launching 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—just over two months after Santaris won back the technology from a former partner in a terminated cancer drug collaboration.

The companies said they will collaborate on discovering LNA drugs against “a multitude of” targets across “several” disease areas, without offering further specifics.

Santaris’ LNA platform and companion drug discovery engine combine the company’s LNA chemistry with drug-development capabilities intended to rapidly deliver LNA-based drug candidates against both mRNA and microRNA. The platform is designed to overcome limitations associated with earlier antisense and siRNA technologies, using small size and high affinity to inhibit RNA targets in several different tissues without the need for more complex delivery vehicles.

The new collaboration with Roche could net Santaris up to $148 million-plus per product developed. Roche agreed to pay the Danish company $10 million up front, as well as up to $138 million in payments tied to preclinical, clinical, regulatory, and sales milestones per product, and funding of ongoing discovery and research activities. Santaris will also be eligible for royalties on worldwide sales of all medicines arising from the alliance.

“This is a very important deal to Santaris, and we look forward to working closely with the Roche teams in our joint pursuit of novel, breakthrough drugs,” Santaris President and CEO Don deBethizy, Ph.D., said in a statement.

The deal is also important to Roche, which a year ago this month named John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., the CEO of the nonprofit Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, to head its pharma research and early development (pRED) unit, with the goal to reverse the company’s struggle in recent years to translate pipeline drugs into Phase III successes that can win marketing approvals and reach patients.

“We believe the LNA drug platform provides the means to discover novel drugs against a range of targets of high clinical relevance that are difficult—or impossible—to target with other drug platforms,” Dr. Reed said. “The partnership will increase our ability to discover and develop important novel medicines that can address significant unmet needs in critical therapeutic areas.”

Santaris licensed the LNA technology to Enzon Pharmaceuticals under a seven-year-old cancer drug collaboration that could have netted Santaris more than $200 million. In 2012, Enzon substantially suspended clinical development activities and sought to sell its interest in the LNA technology for $100,000 to Belrose Pharma, but a planned sale fell through, Enzon disclosed August 6 in a regulatory filing.

Last October, Santaris and Enzon came to terms on the termination, with Enzon reverting full LNA rights back to Santaris, and paying Santaris an undisclosed amount of money, while both companies agreed to release all claims against the other.

Founded in 2003, Santaris holds exclusive worldwide rights to manufacture, have manufactured, and sell products containing LNA as an active ingredient, for studies performed with a view to obtaining marketing approval. The company’s research focuses on therapeutic areas that include cardiometabolic disorders, infectious and inflammatory diseases, cancers, and rare genetic disorders.

Roche joins a parade of biopharma giants collaborating with Santaris. The list includes Bristol-Myers Squibb, miRagen Therapeutics, Pfizer, RaNa Therapeutics, Shire, and Isarna Therapeutics.

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