MiRagen COO takes the wheel as company mulls 'strategic alternatives'

Chutes & Ladders
MiRagen will review “strategic alternatives” for its pipeline, including M&A and licensing deals, in order to throw its resources behind its preclinical lung disease program, MRG-229. (Pixabay)

MicroRNA biotech miRagen is taking a good, hard look at its pipeline, and it’s putting Chief Operating Officer Lee Rauch in charge of the review—and the company.

Rauch takes over just three months after joining the company, replacing William Marshall, Ph.D., miRagen’s founding CEO. Marshall also resigned his position on the company’s board of directors but will serve the company as a “senior technical advisor,” according to a statement.

MiRagen will review “strategic alternatives” for its pipeline, including M&A and licensing deals, in order to throw its resources behind its preclinical lung disease program, MRG-229. As of June 2020, the company had $30.6 million in the bank, which it thinks could see it through the third quarter of 2021, according to its second-quarter earnings statement.

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Although MRG-229 is not miRagen’s leading program, the company thinks it is its best bet. It is a conjugated mimic of miR-29, a microRNA found in very low levels in diseases that involve scarring. MiRagen is developing the drug for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, a rare and fatal disease in which progressive scarring in the lungs makes breathing difficult and prevents the lungs from delivering enough oxygen to the rest of the body. It hopes to begin IND-enabling studies for MRG-229 later this year.

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“We believe that fibrosis is an ideal disease process for the use of microRNA therapeutics. This includes MRG-229, a replacement for miR-29, which targets the important genes and pathways that are central to the development of abnormal extracellular matrix deposition resulting in fibrosis,” Rauch said.

This reaffirmed focus on fibrosis might mean the company wants to get out of other indications, like cancer. MiRagen’s other programs include tissue repair treatment MRG-110, fibrosis candidate remlarsen and blood cancer treatment cobomarsen, all of which are in phase 2.

MiRagen plans to report top-line data for a phase 2 study of cobomarsen in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma by the end of the year. Those data will determine the next steps for the drug, which could include finding a partner for late-stage development and commercialization, Marshall, the former CEO, said in August.

“The Board is excited to have Lee take on the CEO role at miRagen at this important time in the Company’s development. We believe that her extensive experience in company building, corporate strategy and business development are invaluable in setting a course for the future of the Company’s activities as we look to build long-term stockholder value,” said Jeff Hatfield, chairman of miRagen’s board of directors, in the statement.

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