JPM 2022: Amgen teams up with Arrakis to destroy disease-causing RNA in $75M research deal

So far, this year's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference has been the go-to event for pharmaceutical companies to share their new research pals. Amgen is adding to the camaraderie with a $75 million partnership with Arrakis Therapeutics to work on targeted RNA degraders for difficult-to-drug targets.

The two companies dubbed this a new class of medicines, which they hope will emerge from a combination of Amgen’s induced proximity platform discovery expertise and the small biotech’s RNA-targeted drug discovery platform.

Arrakis will receive a $75 million upfront payment, and Amgen will be in charge of preclinical and clinical development activities for five initial programs, plus has an option for more. The biotech will also be eligible for “several billion dollars” in milestone and royalty payments down the line, according to the Tuesday release.

The companies did not detail which diseases or targets they intend to go after, beyond those that are “difficult-to-drug” in multiple therapeutic areas.

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Amgen’s platform is designed to identify multispecific molecules that could engage a broader range of cellular mechanisms to tackle diseases. The company has identified this as its next act and the next phase of drug discovery for the industry.

Arrakis is working to discover new medicines that directly target RNA, which helps convey genetic information to create proteins. These potential small-molecule therapeutics are designed to destroy RNAs that encode disease-causing proteins. The biotech’s existing work focuses on cancer and genetically validated targets in other diseases.

Amgen is already working on targeting RNA with siRNA, or small interfering RNA, which can also regulate gene expression. The company has two therapies listed in its pipeline that use siRNA: cardiovascular disease treatment olpasiran and AMG 609 for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.