China-based biotech licenses Sanofi’s RNA drug technology

Dive Brief:

  • Rona Therapeutics, a new biotechnology startup based in Shanghai, has licensed RNA drugmaking technology from Sanofi, announcing a deal Monday that also covers a slate of preclinical candidates.
  • Under the agreement, Rona will pay Sanofi an undisclosed amount for rights to the French pharmaceutical company’s siRNA, or small interfering RNA, research platform. Rona will also get access to four preclinical candidates for drug targets that the companies did not disclose, while Sanofi retains an option to license back certain neurology and muscular disease candidates discovered using the platform.
  • Founded in 2021, Rona recently raised $33 million in funding from a group of investors that included Lilly Asia Ventures, CMB International and Lanting Capital.

Dive Insight:

Sanofi has a history in RNA medicines, having linked up a decade ago with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, which pioneered medicines based on RNA interference. The companies have since restructured and narrowed their partnership, but Sanofi held onto rights to a hemophilia treatment that’s now in late-stage testing. RNA interference-based medicines are designed to “silence” gene expression as a way to treat disease.

More recently, Sanofi has shown interest in messenger RNA, spending $3.2 billion to acquire Translate Bio and announcing plans for a new mRNA vaccine research center.

But the drugmaker is licensing out some of its RNA drugmaking technology, handing the under-the-radar startup Rona rights to its siRNA discovery platform for liver and non-liver disease applications. In an email, a Sanofi spokesperson said the platform was developed internally at Sanofi to address heart diseases, but was discontinued as a result of a “change in strategy” in late 2019. 

“Rona plans to quickly advance the development of these programs in metabolic, neurological and ocular diseases to unlock the potential of siRNA therapeutics,” said Rona CEO Stella Shi in the company’s statement announcing the deal.

Financial details weren’t disclosed, but Rona said it will make an upfront payment as well as pay additional amounts should it reach certain development and commercial milestones. Sanofi would receive royalties on net sales of any products that reach market.

Rona did not respond to BioPharma Dive’s questions.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect comments from Sanofi sent to BioPharma Dive following publication.

This post has been syndicated from a third-party source. View the original article here.

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