US-based pharmaceutical firm Dicerna has signed an agreement with Denmark-based Novo Nordisk to discover and develop therapies for the treatment of liver-related cardio-metabolic diseases, using its GalXC RNAi platform technology.

GalXC is the RNA interference (RNAi) technology platform developed by Dicerna for the development of advanced RNAi-based therapies to silence disease-driving genes in the liver and other tissues.

The GalXC approach is aimed at optimising the activity of the RNAi pathway and compounds produced through this technology are applicable for both liver and non-liver indications, said the company.

Dicerna president and chief executive officer Douglas M Fambrough said: “We are excited to collaborate with Novo Nordisk on this broad research and development effort that extends the reach of our GalXC platform to a wide range of liver cell targets and maximises our opportunities in serious liver diseases.

“Our efforts will benefit from Novo Nordisk’s expertise in cardio-metabolic diseases and years of experience developing and commercialising innovative therapies worldwide, which will help us advance novel RNAi treatments for underserved patient populations.”

GalXC is used in the development of advanced RNAi-based therapies

The collaboration is aimed at exploring more than 30 liver cell targets and delivering multiple clinical candidates for chronic liver disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), type 2 diabetes, obesity, and rare diseases, said the company.

Under the collaboration, Dicerna will be responsible for funding discovery and conducting preclinical development for a clinical candidate for each liver cell target, while Novo Nordisk will conduct further development.

According to the terms of the agreement, Novo Nordisk will pay $175m as upfront payment, $50m as an equity investment in Dicerna at a premium, $25m annually for the first three years of the collaboration, subject to delivery of RNAi molecules by Dicerna.

Also, Novo Nordisk will pay up to $357.5m per target for development, regulatory and commercialisation milestone payments, along with tiered royalties on product sales ranging from the mid-single-digits to mid-teens.

Both the companies will share the profit or loss in net sales of products developed under the collaboration, consistent with their contribution to co-development costs.

Novo Nordisk global drug discovery senior vice president Marcus Schindler said: “Through this important collaboration with Dicerna, we gain access to an innovative technology and deep expertise in RNA interference.

“Dicerna is the ideal partner to discover and develop molecules for targets that may yield multiple potential treatments across disease areas such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and NASH. We will work closely together to unlock the true potential of treating a range of diseases using RNAi therapies, for the benefit of patients.”