AstraZeneca invests in self-amplifying RNA

AstraZeneca (AZ) will be collaborating with VaxEquity—a new biopharma firm founded by Imperial College London and investment firm Morningside Ventures in 2020—on the discovery, development and commercialization of the proprietary self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) therapeutics platform developed at the aforementioned institute.

saRNA is a new platform used for the development of medicines and vaccines which uses similar technology to that of mRNA, but with the added capability to self-amplify, thus expressing proteins for longer, resulting in higher protein levels per dose level. This has the potential to allow saRNAs to be delivered at lower concentrations than standard mRNA therapeutics, which could result in less recurrent or lower dosing, cheaper costs and a wider range of possible uses, the involved parties say.

The goal of the partnership is to enhance VaxEquity’s saRNA platform and apply it to advance novel therapeutic programs. AZ will financially support VaxEquity with research and development funding, and if AZ decides to further progress any of the research programs into its pipeline, VaxEquity could receive development, approval and sales-based milestones for a total of up to $195 million, with additional royalties in the mid-single digits per program. AZ also has the choice to collaborate with VaxEquity on up to 26 drug targets, and will make an investment in VaxEquity to further the development of the saRNA platform.

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