Novo Nordisk to acquire Dicerna Pharmaceuticals

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


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Novo Nordisk will acquire Dicerna Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth around $3.3bn, gaining its ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) platform.

Founded in 2007, Lexington, Massachusetts-headquartered Dicerna focuses on RNAi-based therapeutics. Using its proprietary GalXC and GalXC-Plus RNAi technologies, the biotech develops therapies to selectively silence genes that cause or contribute to disease.

The RNAi platform enables access to intracellular disease targets: across hepatic (GalXC) and extrahepatic (GALXC-Plus) cell and tissue types.

Building on research collaboration

Denmark-headquartered healthcare company Novo Nordisk has already been working with the publicly-held biotech: in 2019, the two companies entered a research collaboration to discover and develop RNAi therapies using the GalXC platform.

This encompasses the exploration of more than 30 liver cell targets with the potential to deliver multiple clinical candidates for disorders including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), type 2 diabetes, obesity and rare diseases. Clinical development with the first target is expected to start next year.

Novo Nordisk says the acquisition of Dicerna’s RNAi platform is a strategic addition to its existing research technology platforms; supporting its strategy of using a broad range of technology platforms applicable across all its therapeutic focus areas.

“The acquisition of Dicerna accelerates Novo Nordisk’s research within RNAi and expands the usage of the RNAi technology,”​ said Marcus Schindler, PhD, professor, executive vice president and chief scientific officer of Novo Nordisk.

“We build on our successful collaboration and by combining Dicerna’s state-of-the-art RNAi drug engine and intracellular delivery with our deep capabilities in disease biology understanding and tissue targeting through peptides and proteins we have the potential to expand our pipeline and deliver life-changing precision medicines for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and NASH as well as rare diseases like endocrine disorders and bleeding disorders”.

Douglas Fambrough, PhD, founder, president and chief executive officer of Dicerna, added: “The combination of Dicerna’s expertise in RNAi and oligonucleotide therapeutics and highly skilled employees with Novo Nordisk’s industry leadership in developing and commercialising medicines to treat serious chronic diseases, has the potential to significantly accelerate and expand our mission to deliver GalXC RNAi therapies for the benefit of patients and all our stakeholders”. 

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The GALXC platform works by silencing disease-causing genes: giving it the potential to address conditions that are difficult to treat with other modalities like peptides, proteins or monoclonal antibodies.

Instead of targeting proteins after they have been produced and released, RNAi silences the genes themselves via the specific degradation of the messenger RNA (mRNA) made from the gene. Consequently, this approach means such proteins are not created in the first place.

The tech was initially focused on the liver, but Dicerna is also exploring new applications of the tech with GalXC-Plus. This expands the functionality of the platform to extrahepatic cell and tissue types, ‘significantly expanding’ the potential to treat diseases across multiple therapeutic areas with an origin outside of the liver.

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