Dicerna lands $124M RNAi development pact

Start-up Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, which bills itself as a second-generation RNAi developer, has found its first sizeable partner in Japan. Kyowa Hakko Kirin says it will hand over a $4 million upfront fee and up to $120 million in research funding and milestones to deploy Dicerna's technology against a single cancer target. And the deal includes a provision to expand the collaboration by up to 10 more targets, which brings the total prospective payments to $1.4 billion.

Dicerna CEO Jim Jenson tells Xconomy that the money will enable the Watertown, MA-based company to hire some new staffers and helps position the biotech for a Series B round of about $25 million later this year. Dicerna started up in 2007 with an eye to opening a new chapter in RNAi work. Its drugs target an enzyme that plays an early role in the disease process. But the company, which has a staff of 23, is still in the preclinical stage.

"This collaboration addresses to reinforce the possibility of DsiRNA-based medicines by means of specific delivery to tumors or certain tissues," said Etsuo Ohshima, Ph.D., managing officer and vice president of research division at Kyowa Hakko Kirin. "We believe that this endeavor to modulate intracellular targets can be complementary to our own antibody-based approach featuring Potelligent technology to cell surface targets."

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- here's the story from Xconomy