Small interfering RNA (siRNA) drugs treat disease by binding to specific RNA transcripts and preventing the production of the proteins they encode, thereby “silencing” particular genes.
While the approach is effective in the lab, the challenge, and key focus for the Pfizer-Tekmira partnership, is in finding a way to effectively deliver siRNA molecules to the desired target cell in vivo.
Under the new research deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, Pfizer will asses Tekmira’s lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology for its ability to encapsulate and deliver candidates from its portfolio siRNA drugs in preclinical models.
Mark Murray, Tekmira CEO, said “Pfizer…has made a commitment to the development of nucleic acid therapeutics,” adding that “the collaboration combines Tekmira’s expertise in the delivery of RNAi therapeutics with Pfizer’s research excellence in nucleic acid therapeutics.”
But, while a research partnership with the world’s largest drugmaker is obviously a boost for Tekmira, as evidenced by a 20 per cent leap in price on the Toronto Stock exchange, the company will continue to seek development partners according to Dr Murray.
“We continue to collaborate with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies thereby broadening the use of our leading SNALP delivery platform. Our goal is to sign additional collaborative agreements in 2010.”
Tekmira is already working to develop SNALP with other pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, including Swiss drugmaker Roche and US firm Anlylam Pharmaceuticals.
The company also has a similar research agreement to the Pfizer partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb (B-MS) which, as Desjardins Securities analysts Pooya Hemami told Reuters, further validates SNALP.
“If companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer… were to develop more comprehensive licensing agreements, it would be very positive to the extent of the depth of the potential revenue for the technology."