Arbutus Biopharma Corp. (ABUS) agreed to license its proprietary lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology to Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ALXN) for exclusive use in one of Alexion’s rare disease programs. (See also, Alexion Shelves Rare-Disease Drug SBC-103.)

Under the licensing deal, Arbutus will receive a $7.5 million upfront payment from Alexion. Arbutus will be eligible to receive up to $75 million upon achieving certain development, regulatory, and commercial milestones. Arbutus will also be entitled to receive royalties in the future, which may range in the single digits.

Arbutus will also perform technology development and offer production and regulatory support for the rapid development of Alexion's mRNA product candidate.

Alexion to Benefit from Improved Drug Delivery

LNP technology usage will help Alexion address delivery for therapeutic application of messenger RNA (mRNA) and expedite clinical development with its mRNA product candidate. LNP delivery technology facilitates RNAi drugs to be encapsulated in tiny particles made up of lipids, which are naturally occurring substances that include fats, waxes, sterols, and fat-soluble vitamins.

Due to their unique size-dependent properties, these tiny LNP particles conveniently travel through the bloodstream to target tissues and offer an efficient delivery mechanism for drugs.

“This transaction with Alexion illustrates the value of our LNP platform, which has broad potential to deliver mRNA and gene editing therapeutics. We are receiving significant interest from companies that require access to our LNP platform to enable their own development programs. Our LNP expertise and intellectual property will contribute both near and long term value to Arbutus," said Dr. Mark J. Murray, Arbutus' President and CEO.

Arbutus Biopharma stock price jumped 14% during pre-market hours, and the stock was trading at $3.25 on Friday at 11 a.m. ET. Alexion was trading flat at $122.55 per share. (See also, Alexion to Trim Workforce, Scrap R&D Programs.)

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