Roche and Ionis expand partnership with new RNA programs for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s

Roche and Ionis expand partnership with new RNA programs for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s

Roche, in its quest to find effective treatments for Alzheimer’s diseases after the setbacks of gantenerumab, has reaffirmed its commitment to seeking external partnerships. The pharmaceutical giant, in agreement with its long-term collaborator Ionis, is taking a new approach to tackle these challenging conditions. Roche is paying upfront payment of $60 million to secure exclusive worldwide rights to two undisclosed preclinical RNA-targeting programs.

Ionis will guide these programs through the preclinical research phases, and once successful, Roche will assume sole responsibility for human trials and potential commercialization. The financial details regarding development, regulatory, and commercial milestones remain confidential.

“Our lasting partnership with Ionis, a leader in RNA-targeted therapeutics, is a great example of two collaborators mutually benefiting from their relationship by complementing and learning from each other. By expanding our alliance, we bring together the companies’ combined knowledge of the science in Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease with Roche’s proven capabilities in the development and commercialization of innovative treatments in neuroscience.” 

– James Sabry, Ph.D., global head of Roche Pharma partnering

Roche faced setbacks in its attempts to address these diseases, with gantenerumab failing to demonstrate improvement in cognitive and functional decline during the GRADUATE program’s highly anticipated phase 3 trials in November of the previous year. Consequently, Roche scaled back most of its gantenerumab program.

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Nevertheless, Roche maintains several potential Alzheimer’s therapies in its pipeline, including crenezumab, an anti-amyloid-beta antibody developed in partnership with AC Immune. Roche is also exploring bepranemab, an anti-tau antibody in collaboration with UCB, semorinemab, another anti-tau antibody partnered with AC Immune, and a modified version of gantenerumab named trontinemab, all currently in phase 2 trials. The newly formed alliance with Ionis opens the possibility for Roche to add an RNA-based approach to its Alzheimer’s portfolio, diversifying its strategy.

“We are excited to expand our partnership with Roche, a global leader in developing and delivering innovative treatments to patients. With this new collaboration, we are joining forces to accelerate the discovery and development of novel therapies for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease globally. Collaborating on these two programs enables Ionis to advance our wholly owned programs, including those in neurology, aligned with our strategic priorities.”

– Brett P. Monia, Ph.D., Ionis’ chief executive officer

This venture into RNA therapeutics isn’t Roche’s first move in this direction. In 2021, the pharmaceutical giant signed an agreement with Shape Therapeutics to explore next-generation gene therapies for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and rare diseases, utilizing Shape’s RNA-editing platform. In the realm of Huntington’s disease, Roche and Ionis have a decade-long history of collaboration, notably with tominersen, which, despite a high-profile failure in a late-stage study in 2021, led to the continued pursuit of a phase 2 trial for the antisense drug in a specific patient subgroup.

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