AstraZeneca

The German biotech will work with AstraZeneca’s MedImmune and Innovative Medicines units. AstraZeneca, which is currently focusing on building a strong pipeline for respiratory disease, will then have the option to take an exclusive worldwide license for every target. Photo: AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca has stepped up its investment in messenger RNA drugs, a promising approach in genetic therapy, by spending more than 25 million euros on a research alliance with German biotech start-up Ethris. 

The collaboration is focused on developing new stabilised non-immunogenic modified RNA therapies for respiratory diseases using Ethris’ proprietary SNIM®RNA technology. 

In a deal with AstraZeneca and its biotech division MedImmune, Ethris will receive 25 million euros upfront, research funding and milestone payments depending on development achievements, Reuters reports

mRNA therapies deliver genetic instructions to cells which drive the target cells to produce selected proteins to help prevent or fight diseases. Ethris’ proprietary mRNA technology can be targeted to the lungs where it helps to replace, inhibit or augment proteins that are involved in causing or exacerbating respiratory disease. mRNA-based therapeutics may also provide new opportunities to modify the course of the disease or its symptoms.

Ethris will utilize its proprietary SNIM®RNA technology exclusively with AstraZeneca through the company’s MedImmune and Innovative Medicines (IMED) biotech units to develop multiple new targets for investigation in the diseases of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Dr. Carsten Rudolph, President and CEO of Ethris, said: “This collaboration validates Ethris’ leading position in development and delivery of mRNA therapies for the treatment of pulmonary diseases. This collaboration pairs our proprietary technology with the world-class expertise of AstraZeneca and MedImmune in respiratory diseases, biologics development and commercialisation, and positions us to bring forward new options for patients.”

Bahija Jallal, Executive Vice President, MedImmune, added: “Rapid advances over the last decade have made mRNA a very promising tool for clinical application, and we are excited to collaborate with Ethris, whose advanced platform is leading in RNA delivery to the lung. This collaboration complements our respiratory science focused on early intervention and disease modification by adding novel ways to target disease mechanisms that cannot be addressed by other approaches currently in our pipeline.”