GSK tests the miRNA waters with $600M deal

Further solidifying RNA's "next big thing" status, GlaxoSmithKline and Regulus Therapeutics today announced a $600 million alliance to discover, develop and market microRNA-targeted therapeutics to treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Regulus is the offspring of two RNAi leaders, Isis and Alnylam. The companies teamed up September 2007 to form Regulus, which focuses on developing new drugs based on micro-RNA. MicroRNA is one of two types of RNAi found in all human cells and affects how genes are turned off and on (siRNA is the other).

GSK will have the option to license product candidates directed at four different microRNA targets for inflammatory disease. Regulus will receive $20 million in upfront payments from GSK, including a $15 million option fee and a $5 million note that will convert into Regulus stock. The company is also eligible for $144.5 million in milestones for each drug developed with GSK; in addition, the company could earn royalties on any marketed products stemming from the deal.

"When associated with an aberrant inflammatory response, microRNAs represent disease targets whose therapeutic modulation could revolutionize the way we treat immune diseases and provide benefits not readily achievable with today's medicines," said Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, CEO of Regulus. This isn't Glaxo's first foray into the RNA space. Back in December, the company signed another RNA deal with Santaris Pharma.

- see GSK's release

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