Novo Nordisk taps Dicerna's RNAi tech in $225M metabolic, liver disease deal

Novo Nordisk is betting $225 million on Dicerna’s RNAi platform in an R&D collaboration focused on metabolic and liver-related diseases, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It is promising another $75 million in near-term cash, as well as hundreds of millions in milestones in the heavily backloaded deal. 

Dicerna’s stock was up 18% on Monday morning. 

The pair will use Dicerna’s GalXC technology to explore more than 30 liver cell targets to discover and develop new treatments for “liver-related cardio-metabolic diseases.” Dicerna will fund and carry out discovery and preclinical work through candidate selection for each target, after which Novo will take over development, the duo said in a statement. 

Dicerna is netting $175 million in upfront cash, as well as a $50 million equity investment from Novo. It stands to pick up $25 million each year during the first three years of the partnership, as well as $357.5 million in development, regulatory and sales milestones per target. 

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Both companies have the right to co-develop and co-commercialize treatments discovered under the deal. Novo will take the lead on cardio-metabolic disorders, while Dicerna has the option to opt into two programs during clinical development. Dicerna also holds onto the rights to start two programs in orphan liver disease, which Novo may option into. 

“We are excited to collaborate with Novo Nordisk on this broad research and development effort that extends the reach of our GalXC platform to a wide range of liver cell targets and maximizes our opportunities in serious liver diseases,” said Dicerna CEO Douglas Fambrough, Ph.D., in the statement. “Our efforts will benefit from Novo Nordisk’s expertise in cardio-metabolic diseases and years of experience developing and commercializing innovative therapies worldwide, which will help us advance novel RNAi treatments for underserved patient populations.” 

RELATED: Days after Alexion deal, Dicerna pens $100M upfront RNAi research pact with Eli Lilly 

Dicerna designed GalXC to enable the subcutaneous administration of RNAi therapeutics, without using formulation components such as lipid nanoparticles to aid delivery. Once in the bloodstream, the GalXC molecules travel to the liver, where they enter hepatocyte cells and act on their RNAi machinery. 

Novo is just the latest in a string of partners for Dicerna—in the last two years, the Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech has teamed up with Roche, Alexion, Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim. The deals cover a range of disease areas, from complement-mediated disease to neurodegeneration and pain. But some of them are liver-focused too—the Roche pact is centered on hepatitis B, while the Boehringer deal covers chronic liver disease, including NASH.