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AstraZeneca and VaxEquity to collaborate on saRNA platform

Published on 24/09/21 at 11:04am

AstraZeneca and VaxEquity have announced a collaboration to progress VaxEquity’s platform technology through proof of concept to enable the development of multiple products.

VaxEquity could receive development, approval and sales-based milestones totalling up to $195 million and royalties in the mid-single digits per drug target. VaxEquity also received an upfront equity investment from AstraZeneca and global life sciences investor Morningside Ventures.

The strategic, long-term research collaboration with AstraZeneca aims to optimise and validate VaxEquity’s self-amplifying RNA platform and apply it to advance novel therapeutic programmes.  

AstraZeneca will also support VaxEquity with research and development funding and has the option to collaborate with VaxEquity on up to 26 drug targets.

Michael Watson, Executive Chairman of VaxEquity, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with AstraZeneca given its strong track record in innovation and welcome them as a new investor. We are also grateful for the ongoing support of our existing investor, Morningside Group. With our self-amplifying RNA platform, we aim to underpin the next generation of RNA-delivered medicines enabling not only vaccines but also broad range of therapeutic applications.”

VaxEquity’s modified saRNA platform uses similar technology to mRNA but with the added ability to self-amplify, thereby expressing proteins for longer, resulting in higher protein levels per dose level. 

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said: “This collaboration with VaxEquity adds a promising new platform to our drug discovery toolbox. We believe self-amplifying RNA, once optimised, will allow us to target novel pathways not amenable to traditional drug discovery across our therapy areas of interest.”

Using saRNA, rather than mRNA, means that a lower (1/3 to 1/10th) dose of RNA is required to provide enhanced protein expression as the RNA replicates for longer post-administration. VaxEquity modifies the RNA to include elements (called ‘Innate Inhibitory Proteins’ or IIPs) that finely tune the innate immune response, preventing suppression of RNA replication and thereby maximising protein expression by saRNA.

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “I am deeply proud of my colleagues’ work in pioneering self-amplifying RNA technology. This collaboration will help realise our ambition of building a lasting legacy from the great scientific advances Imperial made in this pandemic.”

Kat Jenkins

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