- Santaris' locked nucleic acid (LNA) platform can potentially facilitate development of RNA-targeting therapies -- an area that has a lot of promise, but has been very challenging for researchers.
- Previously, Roche was involved in RNA-targeting therapeutic research, but decided to walk away from this research area in 2010.
- Roche will pay Santaris shareholders $250 million up front, as well as additional payments of up to $200 million assuming certain milestones are reached. The two companies also have had a $140 million research deal in place since the beginning of the year.
There have been many challenges associated with developing RNA-targeting therapies, also known as gene-silencing technology. The underlying idea behind this avenue of research is that there are many disease targets that cannot be reached with small molecules or antibodies. However, messenger RNA is involved in all cells. The hope is that successfully developing this type of therapy will make it possible to reach previously ‘undruggable’ targets.
In 2010, Roche said “no more” as it encountered numerous development hurdles when attempting to develop RNA-targeting therapies; however, the company has since shifted its stance. In early 2013, Roche made a $392 million deal with Isis, which excels in RNA research. Roche is in good company, as it joins other large pharma organizations such as Pfizer, GSK, and AstraZeneca, all of which are working towards development of RNA-targeting therapies.