Eli Lilly invests $100 million in partnership focused on cardio-metabolic disease, neurodegeneration and pain drugs.

Coming just weeks after Dicerna Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement with Alexion Pharmaceuticals, it has joined in a collaboration with Eli Lilly. 

From Alexion, Dicerna will receive $22 million in upfront payments, $15 million in equity investment and up to an additional $600 million in milestone payments associated with two RNAi candidates it has developed using its Ga1XC platform technology.

In the new deal with Eli Lilly, Dicerna will receive $100 million in upfront payments and an additional $100 million of investment in Dicerna stock. An additional $350 million in milestone payments per successful target is also part of the agreement. The two companies will collaborate on the development of RNAi drugs (more than 10 targets) for the treatment of cardio-metabolic disease, neurodegeneration and pain based on Dicerna’s Ga1XC platform technology.

The first RNAi drug received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August 2018. Onpattro (patisiran) was developed by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals as a treatment for the rare disease polyneuropathy of hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis. Johnson & Johnson entered into a collaboration with Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals on RNAi drugs, and Ionis Pharmaceuticals has a number of candidates in development using its oligonucleotide platform.

Lilly and Dicerna will develop next-generation oligonucleotide therapeutic agents, according to a company statement. Dicerna’s GalXC-based therapies are processed by the Dicer enzyme, which is the natural initiation point for RNAi within the human cell. The GalXC technology yields stabilized conjugate delivery configurations with targeting ligands that allow subcutaneous delivery of RNAi therapies to hepatocytes in the liver, according to the company. By using the Dicer enzyme as the entry point into RNAi, the GalXC approach seeks to optimize the activity of the RNAi pathway so that it operates in the most specific and potent fashion.