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AstraZeneca Licenses Messenger RNA Therapy Technology

DNA fragment (Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

The pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca based in London is licensing genomic technology from Moderna Therapeutics, a biotechnology company in Cambridge, Massachusetts to develop treatments for heart disease, metabolic disorders, and cancer. The five-year deal has potential payout to Moderna of $420 million.

Moderna Therapeutics harnesses messenger RNA, nucleic acids related to DNA that leave the cell nucleus and go to cells’ cytoplasm, which makes proteins. The ribosome in cells that synthesizes human proteins reads and translates the genetic code in the messenger RNA into the appropriate amino acids for that protein. The technology developed at Moderna Therapeutics adapts messenger RNA to stimulate proteins in the body to treat disease, which the company says has the potential to cut the time and expense for creating therapeutic proteins using current recombinant methods.

The deal gives AstraZeneca exclusive access to Moderna Therapeutics’ technology to select up to 40 targets covering any cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, as well as selected targets related to cancer. AstraZeneca will lead the preclinical and clinical development, and commercialization of therapies from the agreement and Moderna will be responsible for designing and manufacturing the messenger RNA for the selected targets.

AstraZeneca will make an initial payment of $240 million to Moderna, which will also be entitled to another $180 million for meeting three technical milestones. In addition, Moderna will be entitled to royalties on drug sales from products developed under the agreement.

AstraZeneca also announced today the establishment of a translational research center at Karolinska Institutet in Stockhom, Sweden. The $20 million, five-year funding will support 20-30 researchers conducting preclinical and clinical studies on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and assessing new drug targets for AstraZeneca’s two biotech units, iMed and MedImmune.

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Hat tip: Xconomy

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