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Roche pays $450m for 'gene-silencing' firm Santaris Pharma

Deal marks major return to the RNAi field it exited four years ago

Roche 

Roche's return to the field of RNAi research looks to be complete, following its $450m deal to acquire Denmark's Santaris Pharma.

The Swiss company, which exited the RNAi field in 2010 as part of an R&D restructure, believes Santaris' RNA-targeting technology could underpin the discovery and development of a new class of medicines.

Santaris' pipeline of RNAi - or 'gene silencing' - drugs are based on its Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA) platform and its lead candidate is miravirasen, a novel hepatitis C treatment in phase II trials.

A type of modified RNA nucleotide, LNA potentially offers a way to develop drug candidates that work through previously inaccessible clinical pathways.

John Reed, head of Roche Pharma Research and Early Development, said: "Today there are many disease targets that are very challenging or even impossible to reach with small molecules or antibodies.

“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.”

The acquisition marks an acceleration in Roche's interest in both RNAi research and Santaris, after the two companies struck a more limited $148m discovery and development deal in January.

Formed in 2003, Santaris has not been short of big pharma interest in its technology, having sealed deals with companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Shire.

Commenting on its acquisition by Roche, Santaris' president and CEO J. Donald deBethizy said the companies had complementary capabilities that will help them “realise breakthrough medicines”.

The agreement will see Roche make an upfront cash payment of $250m to Santaris shareholders and then further, conditional, milestone payments of up to $200m. The deal is expected to close later this month, when Santaris' Danish operations will become the Roche Innovation Center Copenhagen.

Article by
Dominic Tyer

5th August 2014

From: Research

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