Novo Nordisk to add RNAi engine in $3.3bn Dicerna buy

The acquisition of development partner Dicerna Pharmaceuticals will accelerate Novo Nordisk’s position in the RNA interference (RNAi) space.

In 2019, Novo Nordisk paid $175 million upfront to collaborate with Dicerna in the discovery and development of RNAi therapies for liver-related cardiometabolic diseases using Dicerna’s proprietary GalXC RNAi platform technology.

Two years on, and the Danish drugmaker has entered an agreement to buy the partner outright, offering $38.25 per share and valuing the firm at around $3.3 billion.

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“The acquisition of Dicerna accelerates Novo Nordisk’s research within RNAi and expands the usage of the RNAi technology,” said Marcus Schindler, chief scientific officer of Novo Nordisk.

“We build on our successful collaboration and by combining Dicerna’s state-of-the-art RNAi drug engine and intracellular delivery with our deep capabilities in disease biology understanding and tissue targeting through peptides and proteins we have the potential to expand our pipeline and deliver life-changing precision medicines for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and NASH as well as rare diseases like endocrine disorders and bleeding disorders.”

Ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) drugs silence a gene before it can produce a disease-causing protein. The modality is relatively new with only three RNAi drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to date: Onpattro (patisiran) in 2018, Givlaari (givosiran) in 2019, and  Oxlumo (lumasiran) in 2020 – all developed by Alnylam.

However, several big pharma firms have entered the space in the past few years including Regeneron, which invested $800 million in Alnylam in 2019, and Novartis, which cited the potential of RNAi in its $9.7 billion acquisition of the Medicines Co.

Dicerna’s GalXC RNAi and GalXC-Plus platforms target specific genes to maximize pharmaceutical acceptability by enabling access to intracellular disease targets across hepatic and extrahepatic cell and tissue types.

Its lead candidate nedosiran (LDHA) is in Phase III trials for primary hyperoxaluria, while another five programs are in the clinic, including co-development projects with Roche, Alnylam, and Eli Lilly.

According to Dicerna CEO Douglas Fambrough: “The combination of Dicerna’s expertise in RNAi and oligonucleotide therapeutics and highly skilled employees with Novo Nordisk’s industry leadership in developing and commercializing medicines to treat serious chronic diseases, has the potential to significantly accelerate and expand our mission to deliver GalXC RNAi therapies for the benefit of patients and all our stakeholders.”

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