AstraZeneca and its biologics operation MedImmune negotiated a five-year strategic research collaboration with mRNA therapeutics firm Ethris focused on developing stabilized, nonimmunogenic modified RNA therapies for respiratory diseases. The partnership will exploit Ethris’ proprietary Stabilized Non-Immunogenic mRNA (SNIM®RNA) technology, which engineers chemical modifications in RNA molecules to overcome their innate instability and immunogenicity.
Through the agreement, Ethris will work exclusively with AstraZeneca and its MedImmune and Innovative Medicines (IMED) units to develop multiple targets for evaluation against asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Ethris will receive a €25 ($29.5 million) million up-front payment plus research funding. The firm is also eligible to earn potential R&D milestones and sales-related royalties. AstraZeneca and MedImmune retain the option to exclusively license each target within the collaboration upon completion of the agreed research plan.
“This collaboration validates Ethris’ leading position in development and delivery of mRNA therapies for the treatment of pulmonary diseases,” commented Carsten Rudolph, Ph.D., president and CEO at Ethris. Bahija Jallal, Ph.D., evp at MedImmune, added, “Rapid advances over the last decade have made mRNA a very promising tool for clinical application, and we are excited to collaborate with Ethris, whose advanced platform is leading in RNA delivery to the lung. This collaboration complements our respiratory science focused on early intervention and disease modification by adding novel ways to target disease mechanisms that cannot be addressed by other approaches currently in our pipeline.”
Founded in 2009, Martinsried, Germany-based Ethris is developing SNIM RNA transcript therapies initially for metabolic and respiratory disorders. The firm has also developed a proprietary technology for SNIM RNA delivery. Ethris’ pipeline includes preclinical-stage candidates for treating cystic fibrosis, ciliopathy, and the urea cycle disorder ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTCD). The firm is keen to establish additional out-licensing, technology collaboration, and product-development partnerships focused on developing mRNA therapies based on the SNIM platform.