The partnership will use Ethris’ proprietary SNIM®RNA technology. The nucleic acid therapy platform is based on stabilized non-immunogenic mRNA — that is, RNAs not targeted by the immune system. The RNA molecules can generate proteins with therapeutic potential.
Scientists will use Ethris’ technology to send the small molecules to the lungs. There, they instruct lung cells to generate proteins that can tackle the underlying mechanisms of a disease.
The hope is that mRNA-based disease-modifying therapies can halt the symptoms and progression of the disorders.
MedImmune and and another AstraZeneca unit, Innovative Medicines, will use Ethris’ technology to develop therapies for several respiratory diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
“This collaboration validates Ethris’ leading position in development and delivery of mRNA therapies for the treatment of pulmonary diseases,” Carsten Rudolph, the president and CEO of Ethris, said in a press release, “This collaboration pairs our proprietary technology with the world-class expertise of AstraZeneca and MedImmune in respiratory diseases, biologics development and commercialization, and positions us to bring forward new options for patients.”
Under the partnership, Ethris will receive an up-front payment of €25 million — about $29.5 million — and additional funds for research. The company is also eligible for payments for achieving research and development milestones, and may receive sales-related royalties when therapies are commercialized.
In addition, the agreement gives AstraZeneca and MedImmune a chance to obtain worldwide licenses for each therapy developed under the collaboration.
“Rapid advances over the last decade have made mRNA a very promising tool for clinical application, and we are excited to collaborate with Ethris, whose advanced platform is leading in RNA delivery to the lung,” said Bahija Jallal, executive vice president of MedImmune. “This collaboration complements our respiratory science focused on early intervention and disease modification by adding novel ways to target disease mechanisms that cannot be addressed by other approaches currently in our pipeline.”