On August 2, 2021 Ipsen (Euronext: IPN; ADR: IPSEY) and Exicure Inc. (NASDAQ: XCUR) reported that they have signed an exclusive collaboration agreement to research, develop, and commercialize novel Spherical Nucleic Acids (SNAs) as potential investigational treatments for Huntington’s disease and Angelman syndrome (Press release, Ipsen, AUG 2, 2021, View Source [SID1234585494]).
Oligonucleotides are synthetic structures of nucleic acids that can be used to modulate gene expression via a range of processes, including gene activation, inhibition, and splice-modulation. These molecules have demonstrated potential in many different therapeutic areas.1 Achieving efficient oligonucleotide delivery to target organs and tissues, including the brain, remains a major limitation to their use.1,2 Exicure’s SNAs provide distinct chemical and biochemical properties to oligonucleotides. In preclinical models, SNAs have been shown to enhance the cell penetration, biodistribution and organ persistence properties of oligonucleotides,3,4 which may potentially enhance drug delivery to previously inaccessible target tissues, including deep brain regions.5,6
Philippe Lopes-Fernandes, Chief Business Officer at Ipsen, said "Neuroscience is deeply rooted within Ipsen as a key strategic driver for our business. We are pleased to partner with Exicure to progress development of investigational treatment options for Huntington’s disease and Angelman syndrome, two areas of significant unmet need. This collaboration marks an important step in maximizing the potential of this novel technology, bringing together the expertise of Exicure and the robust heritage of Ipsen in neuroscience. With this new collaboration we will deepen our commitment to people living with neurological conditions around the world."
"We are thrilled to partner with Ipsen, a leading global company with significant expertise and commitment to developing treatments for patients with rare neurological diseases," said David Giljohann, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Exicure, Inc. "In collaboration with Ipsen, we have the opportunity to apply our technology to Huntington’s disease and Angelman syndrome, both indications requiring deep brain penetration and technological advances to reach previously hard-to-drug targets. We believe our platform technology with its deep penetration and persistence of medicinal effect will allow Exicure and Ipsen to overcome challenges from first-generation oligonucleotides and bring new medicines to patients in need."
Under the agreement, Ipsen will receive exclusive options to license SNA-based therapeutics arising from two collaboration programs for Huntington’s disease and Angelman syndrome. Ipsen will pay Exicure a cash upfront payment of $20m upon closing and Exicure will be responsible for discovery and certain pre-clinical development activities. In the event Ipsen exercises its option, Ipsen will be responsible for further development and commercialization of the licensed products. Exicure will receive a $20m upfront payment and is eligible to receive up to $1B in option exercise fees and milestone payments should Ipsen opt into both programs, as well as tiered royalties.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disorder and the most common monogenic neurological disorder in the developed world, affecting about 40,000 individuals in the US.7 HD is caused by an expanded CAG trinucleotide repetition in the huntingtin (HTT) gene in chromosome 4. HD is characterized by involuntary movements, psychiatric disorders, cognitive deterioration, and early mortality, with death often occurring within 10 to 20 years after motor symptoms appear. Mean age of onset of motor symptoms is around 40 years of age, with longer CAG repeats causing earlier disease onset. 8 There is currently no approved therapy to address the underlying molecular cause of HD to slow or stop disease progression.9
Angelman syndrome (AS) is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder. The prevalence of Angelman syndrome is estimated to be 1 in 12,000-20,000 people in the general population.10 The disorder is characterized by severe intellectual deficit, speech impairment, epilepsy, ataxic movements and behavioral abnormalities. AS results from loss of function of the maternally inherited copy of the ubiquitin-protein ligase E3A (UBE3A) gene on chromosome 15.11 Disruption of UBE3A function in neurons prevents synapse formation and remodeling, leading to significant neurodevelopmental disability. There is currently no approved disease-modifying therapy for AS and standard-of-care treatment is supportive, such as medications for seizures and behavioral abnormalities.12