Roche dumps hep C development deal with Ligand

Roche is dumping another development pact. This time the Swiss pharma giant is dropping a deal to develop new hepatitis C drugs with Ligand Pharmaceuticals ($LGNDD), according to the UK biotech.

The two companies struck a deal back in 2008 to use Metabasis' liver-targeting technology to find a new approach to treating the viral disease. Reuters reports that Ligand filed regulatory paperwork indicating that Roche's termination includes its commitment not to develop similar compounds in the next 10 years.

There's no word from either company what prompted the move, but Roche has launched a wide-ranging restructuring that recently spurred the company to write off $500 million in R&D work regarding RNAi programs.

Ligand says it first heard of Roche's decision on Friday. The developer earned a $6.5 million milestone from Roche last spring after the pharma company pushed RG7348 into Phase I. Ligand acquired its technology partner Metabasis at the beginning of this year. The struggling California company sold for only $3.2 million.

- here's the story from Reuters

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The trial linked RG6346 to reductions in hepatitis B surface antigen that suggest the RNAi therapy can hold its own against drugs from J&J and Vir.