Bristol-Myers forges discovery pact with rising RNA drug player

Santaris Pharma has found another major pharma partner for its RNA drug platform. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) has forked over $10 million initially and promised much more to collaborate with Santaris on discovery and development of new genetic therapies.

As with most such alliances, Santaris' pact with Bristol-Myers pins most of the financial rewards to downstream milestones. Bristol-Myers has promised up to $90 million in milestones as well as royalties to Santaris for each product involved in the pact. (The companies didn't disclose the number of targets or therapeutic areas included in the deal.) Santaris also expects to collect research funding from Bristol-Myers to fund the alliance, which harnesses the capabilities of the biotech company's locked nucleic acid drug platform. 

Hoersholm, Denmark-based Santaris has honed its platform to research drugs for mRNA and microRNA targets, which have commanded attention from pharma as new ways to target the genetics of a variety of diseases such as cancer, infectious disease and cardio-metabolic illnesses. In addition to Bristol-Myers, the Danish biotech has struck alliances with Pfizer ($PFE), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Shire ($SHPG) and others. Santaris was also the first company to advance a microRNA therapy into the clinical development, with the company's midstage candidate for hepatitis C virus.

"We are proud and honored that Bristol-Myers Squibb has chosen Santaris Pharma as their partner," Dr. Henrik Oerum, Santaris Pharma's chief scientist and VP of business development, said in a statement. "We are confident that the unique features of the LNA Drug platform can achieve clinical breakthroughs and look forward to working closely with the Bristol-Myers Squibb team."  

On the business development front, Santaris has been hunting for a partner to help advance the hep C candidate, miravirsen, which has competed for attention with powerful new oral antiviral drugs from Bristol-Myers, Gilead ($GILD) and others.

- here's the company's release
- and the RTTNews release