Doubling down on mRNA, BeiGene taps rising Hong Kong star to create targeted therapies

BeiGene is getting deeper into mRNA drug discovery. Having teamed up with Strand Therapeutics last year, the cancer biotech has now partnered with InnoRNA to jointly research targeted mRNA programs.

Beijing-based BeiGene has identified mRNA as one of four next-gen technologies of interest, the others being antibody-drug conjugates, CAR-NK cells and bispecifics. The interest in mRNA first manifested in a deal with Strand, which secured $5 million upfront from BeiGene for an exclusive license to develop and commercialize two immuno-oncology programs in parts of the Asia-Pacific region early last year. 

BeiGene has now returned to the deal table to bring InnoRNA into its orbit. The deal sees BeiGene pay an upfront fee of undisclosed size for exclusive global development and commercialization rights to any mRNA-based therapies it jointly discovers through the InnoRNA collaboration.

“This collaboration with InnoRNA advances and supports our research efforts in the important field of mRNA therapies while securing critical, proprietary delivery tools,” Lai Wang, Ph.D., global head of R&D at BeiGene, said in a statement.

Founded in 2019, InnoRNA is a Hong Kong-based biotech that is built on a lipid nanoparticle platform for the delivery of mRNA. The promise of the platform, which InnoRNA pitches as a way to get mRNA into “the right cells,” enabled the biotech to raise a $120 million series B round earlier this year, adding to the series A funds it disclosed one year ago. Targeted delivery of mRNA is a challenge for the nascent field. 

BeiGene’s deal, which features milestones of undisclosed size, secures exclusive global rights to mRNA therapies based on the lipid nanoparticle platform. The biotech has also put together a financial package, consisting of an upfront fee and milestones, to secure a nonexclusive license to the platform.