Arbutus and Roivant launch Genevant Sciences to develop RNA therapeutics

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Arbutus Biopharma (NASDAQ:ABUS) and closely-held Roivant Sciences of Switzerland agreed to launch Genevant Sciences, a jointly-owned company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of a broad range of RNA-based therapeutics.

Arbutus will license exclusive rights to its proprietary lipid nanoparticle (LNP) and ligand conjugate delivery platforms to Genevant for RNA-based applications outside of Hepatitis B virus.

Genevant plans to develop products in-house and pursue industry partnerships to build a diverse pipeline of therapeutics across multiple modalities, including RNAi, mRNA, and gene editing.

By 2020, Genevant aims to have five-to-10 RNA programs in the clinic, targeting a range of genetic disorders with limited or no treatment options.

Under the accord, Roivant will contribute $37.5-million in seed capital for Genevant and is committed to financially support Genevant in its aim to advance five-to-10 product candidates into the clinic by 2020.

Arbutus will be entitled to a tiered royalty from Genevant on future sales of products enabled by the delivery platforms. Arbutus also will retain the entirety of its royalty entitlement on the commercialization of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals’ patisiran, which could obtain regulatory approval as early as the second half of 2018.

Genevant’s executive chairman will be Paris Panayiotopoulos, who most recently served as president and CEO of ARIAD Pharmaceuticals through its acquisition by Takeda Pharmaceuticals for $5.2-billion in 2017.

Bo Rode Hansen will be joining Genevant as president, CSO and head of R&D. Dr. Hansen currently serves as global head of RNA Therapeutics at Roche and general manager of the Roche Innovation Center Copenhagen.