Roche pays $200M for rights to Dicerna's hepatitis B RNAi drug

Roche is paying Dicerna Pharmaceuticals $200 million (€179 million) upfront for a global license to phase 1 hepatitis B prospect DCR-HBVS. The deal, which will see Roche and Dicerna collaborate on other hepatitis B virus (HBV) assets, is worth up to $1.5 billion in milestones.

Dicerna is closing in on the delivery of phase 1 data on DCR-HBVS, an RNAi therapy designed to knock down genes needed to make HBV mRNA and get the virus into liver cells. But Roche has opted not to wait for the data, choosing instead to put together a $1.7 billion financial package to secure rights to the drug and ongoing access to Dicerna’s capabilities.

The deal gives Dicerna the option to co-fund pivotal development of DCR-HBVS globally. If Dicerna takes that option, it will receive “enhanced royalties” and co-promote DCR-HBVS with Roche in the U.S.

Roche struck the deal a little more than one year after Johnson & Johnson paid $250 million in cash and stock for the rights to Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals’ experimental RNAi treatment for HBV. The two deals share some similarities, with both involving the transfer of rights to early-phase assets and the chance to work on other programs in return for about $200 million upfront.  

DCR-HBVS will slot into Roche’s pipeline alongside a clutch of other assets designed to treat chronic HBV infections. Roche has drugs including a nucleic acid oligonucleotide, a TLR7 agonist and a capsid inhibitor in phase 1, giving it a stake in many of the mechanisms that may contribute to a HBV cure. 

Roche also hopes to use the Dicerna deal to further bolster its pipeline. The partners both plan to contribute technology to an effort to advance other drugs targeting “multiple human and viral genes implicated in chronic HBV infection.”

Shares in Dicerna rose 13% in premarket trading.