AstraZeneca to discover and develop self-amplifying RNA therapeutics in new collaboration

AstraZeneca has reached an agreement to collaborate with VaxEquity for the discovery, development and commercialisastion of the proprietary self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) therapeutics platform developed at Imperial College London.

The strategic, long-term research collaboration aims to optimise and validate VaxEquity’s saRNA platform and apply it to advance novel therapeutic programmes.

AstraZeneca will support VaxEquity with research and development funding and should AstraZeneca advance any of the research programmes into its pipeline, VaxEquity could receive development, approval and sales based milestones totalling up to $195 million and royalties in the mid-single digits per programme.

AstraZeneca has the option to collaborate with VaxEquity on up to 26 drug targets and will also make an investment in VaxEquity to further the development of the saRNA platform.

VaxEquity was founded by Imperial College London and Morningside in 2020 based on the innovative saRNA technology developed by Professor Robin Shattock and his colleagues at Imperial College London, UK.

saRNA is a new platform for the development of medicines and vaccines which uses similar technology to mRNA but with the added ability to self-amplify, thereby expressing proteins for longer, resulting in higher protein levels per dose level.

This has the potential to allow saRNAs to be delivered at lower concentrations than conventional mRNA therapeutics, leading to less frequent or lower dosing, lower costs and a much broader range of potential applications.

The saRNA platform aims to underpin the next generation of RNA-delivered medicines enabling not only vaccines but also broad range of therapeutic applications.

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, said: “This collaboration with VaxEquity adds a promising new platform to our drug discovery toolbox.

“We believe self-amplifying RNA, once optimised, will allow us to target novel pathways not amenable to traditional drug discovery across our therapy areas of interest.”

Michael Watson, Executive Chairman of VaxEquity, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with AstraZeneca given its strong track record in innovation and welcome them as a new investor.

“We are also grateful for the ongoing support of our existing investor, Morningside Group. With our self-amplifying RNA platform, we aim to underpin the next generation of RNA-delivered medicines enabling not only vaccines but also broad range of therapeutics applications.”

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “I am deeply proud of my colleagues’ work in pioneering self-amplifying RNA technology. This collaboration will help realise our ambition of building a lasting legacy from the great scientific advances Imperial made in this pandemic.”

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