Roche dumps antisense hep B drug after bagging rival asset

The removal of RG6004 from Roche’s pipeline coincided with the entry of RG6346. (Roche)

Roche has dropped an antisense hepatitis B drug shortly after licensing a rival therapy from Dicerna Pharmaceuticals. RG6004 fell off Roche’s pipeline as part of a periodic cull that affected a handful of other experimental programs. 

Synthetic locked nucleic acid modified antisense oligonucleotide RG6004 moved into the clinic early in 2017, opening up another front in Roche’s attack against the hep B virus. New information about the drug dried up over the next few years, although Roche’s decision to pay $200 million (€182 million) upfront to license Dicerna’s phase 1 RNAi therapy suggested the Swiss Big Pharma saw gaps in its hep B pipeline.

Now, Roche has dropped RG6004. The removal of RG6004 from Roche’s pipeline coincided with the entry of RG6346, a siRNA treatment for hep B, into early phase development.

RG6004 was one of several new molecular entities removed from Roche’s drug development pipeline in the fourth quarter. The most advanced of the assets was RG6206, a myostatin inhibitor that Roche revealed it was giving up on late last year. RG6206, formerly of Bristol-Myers Squibb, made it as far as phase 3 before Roche decided to drop the Duchenne muscular dystrophy prospect.

Details of the departure of the other NME to leave Roche’s pipeline in the fourth quarter emerged earlier this month when Chugai Pharmaceutical disclosed a licensing deal with Verastem Oncology. The deal saw Chugai, a Roche subsidiary, outlicense phase 1 RAF/MEK inhibitor CKI27 to Verastem for $3 million upfront. 

The remaining assets affected by Roche’s latest round of pipeline changes are all continuing in other indications. Roche stopped developing ipatasertib, also known as RG7440, for neoadjuvant use in patients with triple negative breast cancer but is going ahead with trials of the AKT inhibitor in other indications. Similarly, Roche dropped two combination trials involving approved checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq.

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