After facing obstacles in its Alzheimer’s trials for gantenerumab the previous year, Roche, a prominent pharmaceutical company, expressed its intention to seek external collaborations and partnerships as a strategic approach to tackling Alzheimer’s disease. Demonstrating commitment to this pledge, Roche has recently announced a significant collaborative effort with its long-standing partner, Ionis.
In this collaborative endeavor, Roche, based in Switzerland, is initiating a substantial partnership by making an upfront payment of $60 million to secure the exclusive global rights to two undisclosed preclinical RNA-targeting programs. These programs are particularly focused on addressing the challenging realms of Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. Ionis will take on the responsibility of overseeing the preclinical studies for these programs. Following this phase, Roche will exclusively manage human trials and potentially lead the efforts in commercializing these treatments.
In addition to the initial payment, Roche has committed to covering the costs of development, regulatory procedures, and achieving specific commercial milestones. Nevertheless, the exact financial commitments, especially in terms of “biobucks,” remain undisclosed. James Sabry, Ph.D., the Global Head of Roche Pharma Partnering, emphasized the enduring nature of the partnership with Ionis, emphasizing the mutual benefits derived from complementing and learning from each other’s areas of expertise.
This collaboration symbolizes a fusion of the accumulated knowledge of Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases from both companies. Having faced challenges in effectively addressing these diseases, Roche, notably the recent setback with gantenerumab, is now adopting a diversified approach. Despite the setbacks in the gantenerumab trials, Roche’s pipeline still holds promise with potential Alzheimer’s therapies, including crenezumab, an anti-amyloid-beta antibody partnered with AC Immune.
Furthermore, Roche’s collaboration with Ionis opens up the prospect of incorporating an RNA-based approach into its portfolio of treatments for Alzheimer’s. This strategic move follows a prior initiative in 2021 when Roche partnered with Shape Therapeutics to explore cutting-edge gene therapies for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and rare diseases using RNA-editing technology.
Regarding Huntington’s disease, Roche and Ionis possess prior collaborative experience through their work on tominersen over the past decade. Despite setbacks in a late-stage study in 2021, the partners have persisted, advancing to a phase 2 trial of the antisense drug within a specific patient subgroup.