Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. kept adding major partners to its CV Monday as it and Novo Nordisk A/S struck a deal to discover and develop therapies to treat liver-related cardiometabolic diseases, including chronic liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), type 2 diabetes, obesity and rare diseases.

Douglas Fambrough, co-founder, CEO, president and director, Dicerna

In Monday morning's conference call to investors, Douglas Fambrough, Dicerna's co-founder, CEO, president and director, said the company has "entered a more mature phase of partnering" by adding Novo as a partner to a list that also includes Eli Lilly and Co., Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Roche Holding AG.

In the Novo deal, Dicerna receives an up-front fee of $175 million, a $50 million equity investment at a premium and up to $25 million annually during each of the first three years of the collaboration, contingent on Dicerna delivering RNAi molecules for a defined number of targets. It also gets up to $357.5 million per target in development, regulatory and commercialization milestone payments, plus tiered royalties on product sales ranging from the mid-single-digits to midteens.

Dicerna will conduct and fund discovery and preclinical development to clinical candidate selection for each liver cell target, and Novo will be responsible for all further development. The two companies will explore and evaluate more than 30 liver targets using Dicerna's GalXC platform, whose compounds enable subcutaneous delivery of RNA interference therapies that are designed to bind specifically to receptors on liver cells, leading to the machinery inside.

While Fambrough would not divulge which areas were the most target rich, he did touch on how all the deals were defined in terms of specific targets.

"And so with our collaborations pre-existing before this morning's announcement such as Boehringer, and Alexion and Lilly and Roche, of course, there are either specific targets that have been included in those collaborations – two for Boehringer, two for Alexion, et cetera," he said. "And in some cases, Alexion, Lilly and Roche, there are a small number of reserve targets on the liver from which those companies can select additional programs. For what is not reserved and selected, Dicerna has the right to reserve targets and select targets. So it's not parsed up by therapeutic indication or patients. It's parsed up by individual targets. And there is a mechanism by which companies can determine if a target has been reserved by another company or not."

When asked by an analyst if Dicerna would be guiding a new deal every two weeks from now on, Fambrough wryly replied, "I think my next new deal was Thanksgiving dinner, so no."

Dicerna's stock (NASDAQ:DRNA) closed at $21.39, up 10.8%, on Monday.

Two years ago saw Dicerna's first deal with GalXC when it teamed with Boehringer to discover and develop new therapies for chronic liver diseases, starting with NASH. The deal included $10 million up front and up to $191 million in success-based development and commercialization milestones, excluding royalties, for an undisclosed target. Boehringer also had the choice to buy into an option to add a second target to the collaboration. (See BioWorld, Nov. 3, 2017.)

A year later, it negotiated an exclusive license with Alexion to develop and commercialize up to four preclinical RNAi molecules for complement-mediated diseases. Dicerna was to receive $22 million up front and an equity investment of $15 million for the first two candidates, and stood to receive $20 million more if Alexion exercises an option to advance preclinical GalXC RNAi molecules for two additional targets within the complement pathway. Dicerna is also eligible for additional development and sales milestones totaling up to $580 million plus royalty payments for the programs. (See BioWorld, Oct. 25, 2018.)

Less than a week after the Alexion tie-up, Dicerna announced a global licensing and research collaboration with Lilly focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of potential new medicines in cardiometabolic disease, neurodegeneration and pain. Dicerna received an up-front payment of $100 million and an equity investment of $100 million at a premium. Dicerna was also eligible to receive up to approximately $350 million per target in development and commercialization milestones, as well as tiered royalties ranging from the mid-single to low-double digits on product sales. (See BioWorld, Oct. 30, 2018.)

A little more than two weeks ago, Roche pledged $200 million up front in a research collaboration and licensing agreement deploying the GalXC platform, with another $1.47 billion possible in development, regulatory and commercial milestone payouts. Focused on DCR-HBVS, the pact includes discovery and development of therapies targeting more human and viral genes associated with hepatitis B virus using research approaches from both firms. Dicerna could also collect royalties and retains an option to co-fund pivotal development of DCR-HBVS worldwide. If exercised, that would put the company in line for enhanced royalties and the right to co-promote products, including DCR-HBVS, in the U.S. with Basel, Switzerland-based Roche. (See BioWorld, Nov. 1, 2019.)

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