Merck and Cambridge, Mass.-based Orna Therapeutics announced a collaboration Aug. 16 to develop and commercialize multiple programs, including vaccines and therapeutics in infectious disease and oncology.
According to the announcement, Orna will also be eligible to receive up to $3.5 billion in development, regulatory and sales milestones, as well as royalties on any approved products created from the collaboration.
Orna, a biotech company pioneering engineered circular RNA (oRNA) therapies, will retain rights to its oRNA-LNP technology platform and will continue to work on its other wholly owned programs.
The announcement also said Merck will invest $100 million of equity in Orna’s recently completed Series B financing round.
“This broad strategic collaboration brings together Merck’s significant expertise in nucleic acid biology, clinical development, and manufacturing with Orna’s compelling circular RNA technology to explore the opportunity to develop a new generation of potential vaccines and therapeutics,” Fiona Marshall, senior vice president and head of discovery, preclinical and translational medicine at Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement.
According to an accompanying statement from Orna announcing the initial closing of the $221 million Series B financing, the company “is expanding the reach of current RNA therapeutics with recently presented preclinical data demonstrating the potential of oRNA to treat cancer, genetic disorders, and infectious diseases.”
Orna CEO Tom Barnes added that the collaboration “aims to accelerate the development of RNA therapeutics for patients in need of better treatment options.”