Dharmacon and Alcon to Collaborate on Discovery of New Therapies for Eye Diseases Using RNAi
LAFAYETTE, Colo. — Dharmacon, Inc., a business unit of the Fisher Biosciences group, and the world’s leading supplier of innovative RNA and RNA interference (RNAi) research products, today announced a collaboration to develop a new class of therapeutic agents based on RNA interference with Alcon Research, Ltd. and Alcon Manufacturing, Ltd., affiliates of Alcon, Inc. (NYSE: ACL), the global leader in eye-care pharmaceuticals and other products. RNAi’s ability to “silence” disease-causing genes has propelled its rapid adoption as a tool for drug-discovery research, and more recently it has also demonstrated potential utility as a new approach to therapy. The specificity and novel molecular mechanism of RNAi may allow for the development of safer and more effective drugs targeting previously “non-druggable” targets. RNAi-based drugs, known as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), may be able to treat ophthalmic diseases, because drug delivery to the eye is more straightforward and controllable than systemic administration. Dharmacon’s industry-leading proprietary siRNA chemistries and its innovative SMARTselection(TM) technology should be particularly valuable for developing siRNA drugs, because they ensure high levels of gene-silencing efficacy and specificity, thereby reducing the likelihood of “off-target” side effects. “This collaboration links two leaders. Dharmacon’s pioneering RNAi technologies and expertise are complemented by Alcon’s decades of leadership in discovering and developing important new ophthalmic therapeutics,” said William S. Marshall, Ph.D., vice president of technology and business development for Fisher Biosciences. “We look forward to a productive joint effort to discover new therapies for the growing number of patients battling ophthalmic diseases which adversely affect their independence and quality of life.” Alcon and Dharmacon will together select and prioritize disease-related gene targets for the collaboration to pursue, and Dharmacon will apply its expertise in the design and chemical modification of siRNAs to develop compounds that are highly functional and have the drug-like qualities needed for successful ophthalmic-drug candidates. “Staying at the forefront of technology advances is a primary factor behind our half century of success in bringing new eye-care drugs to market, and we believe RNAi has the potential to generate the next wave of important ophthalmic drugs,” said Martin Wax, M.D., vice president of research and development and director of ophthalmology discovery research at Alcon, Inc. “We look forward to working with Dharmacon to apply RNAi to drug discovery and development. Dharmacon’s broad and deep expertise, along with its unique siRNA technologies, are important to this collaboration.” Financial terms of this multi-year agreement were not disclosed.