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Inside potential $1B deal for Ribometrix: A look at startup’s science, history

Ribometrix, a Durham company specializing in RNA-based therapeutics, has formed a drug discovery and development collaboration with Genentech that could be worth more than $1 billion.

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, will pay Ribometrix a $25 million upfront payment for exclusive rights to certain novel, small-molecule therapeutics against several targets and an exclusive global license for the development and commercialization of molecules.

Ribometrix will also be eligible to receive potential milestone payments exceeding $1 billion as well as tiered royalties on future global net sales of products that result from the collaboration.

“The ability to specifically target the 3D structure of RNA opens up an array of new possibilities in medicine, and Ribometrix is building the capabilities to deliver on that promise,” said Michael Solomon, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Ribometrix, in a prepared statement. “This collaboration with Genentech unites our RNA therapeutics leadership with their global reach and broad expertise to accelerate development of this important new class of medicines.”

RNA, a nucleic acid present in all living cells, is involved in a wide variety of disease processes. Ribometrix has shown that many RNAs contain structural pockets that are amenable to targeting with small molecules, producing a therapeutic effect.

The potential benefits of small-molecule binders of RNA over current protein- and RNA-based approaches include potency, selectivity, oral bioavailability, tissue distribution and central nervous system penetration.

“Genentech is committed to exploring innovative approaches to drug targets that are difficult to address with conventional approaches,” said James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., global head of pharma partnering at Roche. “Ribometrix has built capabilities to drug-specific RNAs, and we look forward to a productive collaboration to explore this emerging area of science.”

The Genentech deal follows on the heels of a similar collaboration that Ribometrix signed with Vertex Pharmaceuticals of Boston in September 2019. That deal provided Ribometrix an upfront payment of $20 million, which included an equity stake in the company, and more than $700 million in total potential payments if certain research, development, regulatory, and commercial milestones are met.

In addition, Vertex will pay tiered royalties on future net global sales on any products that result from the collaboration.

UNC SPINOUT SUPPORTED BY NCBIOTECH

Ribometrix was founded in 2015 by Kevin Weeks, Ph.D., Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill., and Katie Warner, Ph.D., a UNC graduate who is now a senior executive at the company.

Ribometrix received a $75,000 Company Inception Loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in 2016 to help the company prepare for its first round of equity financing. That support helped the company raise $7.5 million in seed capital.

Ribometrix completed a $30 million Series A financing in late 2018. Pappas Capital and Hatteras Venture Partners, both of Durham, invested in the round.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire