RNA therapeutics developer Arrowhead Research has bought Alvos Therapeutics in the hope that peptide targeting technology will help it overcome delivery challenges.
Alvos – formerly known as Mercator Therapeutics – uses a technique known as phage display to identify peptide sequences that bind to and are rapidly internalised by protein receptors on the surface of specific cells – including cancer tumour cells.
Arrowhead plans to combine these targeting peptides with its own technology to create a platform capable of effectively delivering siRNA therapies, which is something that many other developers have failed to do - including Roche which sold its RNA portfolio to Arrowhead in 2010.
Arrowhead CEO Christopher Anzalone touched on this in his comments about the Alvos takeover, explaining that: “Alvos has identified rapidly internalizing cell surface receptors for over 30 diseased and normal tissue types and peptides that efficiently target them.
“We do not believe that any other group in the world has generated data in humans that approaches this; therefore it is unique, powerful, and immediately applicable to man.”
Renewed interest in RNA
One notable example is Alnylam which in January hailed its tech as the future of RNA therapeutics. However, Alnylam is also a good example of the hurdles that developers face as – just a few weeks later – it announced yet another series of cost cutting measures.
Peptide drug conjugates
The acquisition of Alvos – which saw Arrowhead make an upfront payment of 315,467 shares in restricted common stock - is of course in keeping with its core focus on developing RNA drugs.
However, the deal also gives the Arizona, US-based developer an opportunity to expand its business beyond this notoriously difficult area of medical development because Alvos' targeting peptides can also be applied to traditional small molecule drugs.
The idea – according to Anzalone – would be to attach Alvos’ peptides to traditional small molecule drugs and create peptide drug candidates (PDC) that can be directed against very specific target receptors for a wide range of diseases.
“This acquisition allows for the creation of new PDCs against cancer and other indications, thereby expanding our business and capabilities in a cost effective way. The unique potential of this technology offers substantial opportunities to partner with other biotech and pharmaceutical companies."