Scarcity value sees Dicerna rewarded richly by Roche

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Hopes are high that RNA-based therapies will make real progress towards delivering a functional cure for hepatitis B – but unencumbered clinical assets are thin on the ground. Presumably this is why Dicerna managed to drive such a rich deal for its phase I asset, DCR-HBVS; shares in the company traded 6% higher on the news. The US biotech said today that Roche had bought worldwide rights to the project for an initial $200m, the biggest up-front fee seen in this space, though the collaboration also involves the discovery of other assets. Roche has a number of hepatitis B projects in development, though the only one in the same ballpark as the Dicerna agent is an oligonucleotide coded RG6004. DCR-HBVS is an RNAi asset is said to differ from other RNAi approaches in that it targets a unique section of the viral genome. Whether that matters is not clear – proof of concept data, due before year end, are apparently not yet available. Given the substantial sums involved in this deal Roche must be supremely confident in this approach, though the presence of other parties at the table likely drove up the price.

Using RNA to target hepatitis B the clinical pipeline
Project Company Deal terms/details Clinical progress 
ALN-HBV02/VIR-2218  Alnylam/Vir Biotechnology Oct 2017: strategic development alliance, up-front undisclosed Results from phase I/II study due by year end
JNJ-3989/ARO-HBV J&J/Arrowhead Oct 2018: $175m up front for WW rights Phase II data presentation at AASLD in Nov 
GSK3228836 Glaxosmithkline/Ionis Aug 2019: exercised option for WW rights for $25m fee  Unknown
GSK3389404 Glaxosmithkline/Ionis Aug 2019: exercised option for WW rights for $25m fee  Phase IIa data presentation at AASLD in Nov
DCR-HBVS Roche/Dicerna Oct 2019: $200m up front for WW rights Proof of concept data due by year end
AB-729 Arbutus Biopharma Wholly owned Data from phase Ia/Ib trial due in early 2020
RG6004 Roche  In-house antisense candidate  Phase I ongoing 
Source: EvaluatePharma.

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