Arbutus, Roivant in talks to launch new RNAi delivery company

Roivant invested $116 million in Arbutus' hepatitis B program last fall and now, the pair is considering launching a new company to develop nucleic acid delivery technology. (Gerd Altmann)

Roivant and Arbutus Biopharma are negotiating the terms and conditions of setting up a new company to jointly develop the latter’s nucleic acid delivery platform. Under their exclusivity agreement, the pair has a month to decide if they will pull the trigger on the deal.

The new company would jointly own, manage and develop delivery technologies based on Arbutus’ lipid nanoparticle (LNP) and GalNAc platforms, Arbutus said in a statement. The LNP and GalNAc tech is designed for the delivery of novel treatments, such as gene-editing and mRNA-based treatments, in addition to RNAi therapies.

This isn’t the first time the pair has teamed up—Roivant put up $116 million in October to back Arbutus’ preclinical and clinical hepatitis B programs. In addition to capital, Roivant said the companies would work together to “leverage Roivant’s infrastructure to accelerate more efficient development of Arbutus’ HBV drug pipeline” as well as non-HBV programs.

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At the time, Roivant CEO and Arbutus Chairman Vivek Ramaswamy kept the door open on additional funding: “We look forward to providing strategic and operational support to Arbutus, while also maximizing the value of Arbutus’ other assets, including through potential additional investment where required.”

And Roivant looks to be on a dealmaking roll—earlier this week, it inked a $650 million pact to get its hands on near-global rights for Poxel’s diabetes drug, imeglimin. Roivant is handing over $35 million up front and taking a $15 million (6%) stake in Poxel in exchange for its entry into metabolic disease. Poxel stands to pick up another $600 million in milestones.