In a groundbreaking move, Roche is taking a giant leap forward by allocating an upfront payment of $60 million to its long-term collaborator, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, to fuel the development of two cutting-edge RNA-targeting programs aimed at addressing Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. This monumental partnership, announced on Wednesday, marks a significant milestone in the fight against these debilitating neurological conditions.
Under the terms of this collaboration, Ionis will lead the charge, advancing these innovative therapies through the preclinical phases, while Roche will assume responsibility for clinical development, manufacturing, and the commercialization of these potential medicines should they receive regulatory approval.
Ionis will receive its substantial upfront payment, with additional potential development, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments, along with tiered royalties, all outlined in the press release.
This strategic alliance aims to leverage Ionis’ unrivaled expertise in discovering medicines that target the underlying causes of central nervous system diseases. Combined with Roche’s extensive global experience in the development and commercialization of therapies for nervous system disorders, this partnership holds immense promise for patients and the medical community.
The specifics of the two programs remain shrouded in secrecy, referred to simply as “two undisclosed early-stage programs” for RNA-targeting investigational medicines designed to combat Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.
Huntington’s, a genetic neurodegenerative condition, results from an expansion of the cytosine-adenine-guanine trinucleotide sequence in the HTT gene, leading to the production of a toxic protein that wreaks havoc on neurons. In contrast, Alzheimer’s is characterized by the presence of protein plaques in the brain that contribute to the demise of brain cells, with no single cause identified for the disease.
This latest collaboration adds to the decade-long partnership between Roche and Ionis, which kicked off in 2013 with their joint efforts on tominersin, an investigational medicine for Huntington’s disease, currently in Phase II trials. Over the years, their collaboration expanded to include the development of a preclinical stage mutant HTT selective antisense oligonucleotide for Huntington’s disease.
In 2018, the duo embarked on RG6299, an investigational ligand-ligand antisense medicine with potential applications for IgA nephropathy (IgAN), where immunoglobulin A accumulates in the kidneys, and geographic atrophy (GA), an advanced stage of dry macular degeneration affecting the eyes. Ionis is spearheading a Phase II study for GA treatment, while Roche leads a Phase III study for IgAN treatment.
It’s worth noting that Roche has encountered challenges in its pursuit of Alzheimer’s treatments, with its primary candidate, gantenerumab, failing to meet primary endpoints in two separate Phase III trials last year.
Furthermore, crenezumab, another monoclonal antibody in Roche’s arsenal, also failed to halt or prevent a rare form of autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s disease in a Phase III trial earlier in 2022. However, this new partnership with Ionis signals a renewed and determined effort to conquer these formidable neurological disorders.”