Picture of a male and female scientist working in a lab using the MAGNA one machine to visualize RNA
Credit: Depixus

French biotech Depixus have developed a novel method to screen interactions between biomolecules such as RNA, which Japanese big pharma Daiichi Sankyo will use to progress their RNA-targeted drug pipeline.

The method developed by Depixus can look at binding strength of two molecules by applying magnetic force, as well as obtaining more information about molecule structure and exact binding location.

There is strong interest in developing small molecule drugs that can target RNA. The field is still at an early stage, but there are a growing number of biotechs and big pharma, including Daiichi Sankyo, developing products and investing in this space.

Up to 90% of protein targets in the body are not druggable, so being able to target any RNA would be a big boost for therapeutics development across a range of medical fields.

Depixus was founded just over ten years ago and its technology, MAGNA, uses magnetic force spectroscopy to study many biomolecular interactions at the same time. This technology can be used to study interactions between biomolecules such as DNA and RNA and proteins and small molecules and the company’s first instrument MAGNA One, will be launched next year.

“The world of RNA-targeted therapeutics has huge potential, yet is largely unexplored,” said Gordon Hamilton, CEO of Depixus.

Part of the reason for this lack of development is that companies and researchers believed for a long time that RNA was too difficult to target and that small molecule compounds would not be able to overcome the water barrier and bind to the RNA.

There are also a lot of unanswered questions in this area, such as where and when to target the RNA and what make the best targets in terms of therapeutic efficacy.

While there are challenges involved in targeting RNA, it is possible and a number of small molecules that can do this have now been identified.  For example, synucleozid reduces α-synuclein protein levels, which are implicated in Parkinson’s disease, by decreasing the amount of α-synuclein mRNA.

Daiichi Sankyo, along with other big pharma companies such as Roche, Amgen and AstraZeneca are partnering with biotechs with RNA expertise to try and get ahead of the competition.

The partnership with Depixus will help Daiichi Sankyo select appropriate RNA targets and to de-risk the overall pipeline.

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