- Dicerna Pharmaceuticals said Monday it has reached a fifth, and likely its last, liver-focused R&D deal with a major industry player.
- The small, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech inked the agreement last Friday with Novo Nordisk to explore more than 30 liver cell targets to develop medicines for cardiometabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, NASH and obesity.
- Novo will pay $175 million upfront, buy $50 million in Dicerna stock at a premium, and commit to potentially billions in potential milestone payments. Dicerna's stock has nearly doubled since the beginning of 2019 and was up almost 20% Monday morning.
The Novo deal caps the end of a largely successful dealmaking run for Dicerna, as the chief executive of the Cambridge biotech said Monday it's likely to be the company's last in liver disease research.
"Our Novo Nordisk alliance is the capstone of our partnering efforts in the liver," CEO Douglas Fambrough said on a Monday call about the deal. "We do not anticipate additional liver-targeted discovery collaborations."
Future partnerships will look outside the liver, but will have to wait until Dicerna develops the ability to do so with its RNAi technology, Fambrough said.
Over the past two years, Dicerna has netted meaningful R&D partnerships with multiple industry leaders interested in its RNAi platform technology called GalXC.
Just last month, Roche agreed to pay $200 million upfront and up to $1.47 billion in milestone payments to develop a hepatitis B vaccine in Phase 1 testing called DCR-HBVS. The deal also supports research in several additional hepatitis B targets.
Dicerna's deal-making run
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|Milestones per target
Beyond the $175 million upfront payment, Novo agreed to pay an additional $25 million each of the first three years to support research costs, contingent on Dicerna delivering RNAi molecules for an unspecified number of targets.
By exploring more than 30 targets and outlining $357.5 million in milestone payments per target, the deal could potentially amount to billions depending on how many drug candidates advance.
Dicerna will take the lead on discovery, preclinical development and clinical candidate selection while Novo will run subsequent clinical development. Additionally, Dicerna can opt into co-development and co-commercialization for two programs during clinical development.
Evercore ISI analysts Jon Miller and Umer Raffat wrote Monday the Novo deal is the latest validation of Dicerna's business strategy "of getting major pharma on board to tackle mass-market indications while leaving more amenable targets for internal development."
The two analysts estimate the recent Roche and Novo deals will boost Dicerna's on-hand cash total to more than $700 million, which should support the biotech as it prepares for its own first commercial launch.
DCR-PHXC is Dicerna's lead therapeutic candidate, currently undergoing late-stage testing in primary hyperoxaluria, a rare condition marked by recurrent kidney and bladder stones. The company expects to complete enrollment of that pivotal study in the second half of 2020.