Partnership formed to develop miRNA to treat pancreatic cancer

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pancreas pancreatic cancer

RNA delivery and therapeutics company SiSaf Ltd is to collaborate with the University of Leipzig in Germany to develop targeted micro interfering RNAs (miRNA) for the treatment of cancer, with an initial focus on pancreatic cancer. 

The collaboration will combine SiSaf’s work in RNA delivery using its Bio-Courier silicon-stabilized hybrid lipid nanoparticles (sshLNPs) and the University of Leipzig’s experience in miRNA targeting and therapeutic approaches in cancer.

SiSaf will develop miRNA Bio-Courier formulations that will be tested in pancreatic cancer models in Achim Aigner’s laboratory. Under the terms of the agreement, SiSaf has an exclusive option to acquire a worldwide license to a patent by the university. Financial terms of the agreement are not disclosed.

Tumor inhibiting potential

miRNAs are involved in the regulation of various physiological and pathological processes. In tumors, aberrant downregulation of given miRNAs may result in pathological overexpression of oncogenes, rendering miRNA replacement a promising therapeutic strategy. Aigner and his team have demonstrated the tumor-inhibitory potential of miR506-3p and miR24-3p in animal models of pancreatic cancer. 

A major bottleneck in miRNA replacement is efficient delivery. The aim of the collaboration is to develop a replacement therapy combining both miR506-3p and miR24-3p for a more powerful effect, using SiSaf’s Bio-Courier drug delivery platform, which leverages the properties of elemental silicon to optimize lipid nanoparticle technology for RNA therapeutics

SiSaf said Bio-Courier nanoparticles offer improved RNA loading capacity and protection from hydrolysis, combined with efficient transfection and controlled release of the oligonucleotide payload. Bio-Courier modifies particle size, surface charge and surface ligands for targeting the desired site of drug action. Bio-Courier formulated drugs can be used for multiple routes of administration.

Aigner, clinical pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine at Leipzig University, said: “Due to their parallel, selective effects on multiple defined targets, miRNAs offer exceptional opportunities for the development of novel drugs that show enhanced efficacy while avoiding tumor cell resistance. Also, miRNAs act on messenger RNAs rather than proteins, thus providing innovative treatment avenues. We are delighted to further pursue our promising miRNA candidates towards possible translation into the clinic, by teaming up with SiSaf and its extensive expertise.”

Using miRNA-based replacement therapies to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients

Suzanne Saffie-Siebert, chief executive officer of SiSaf, said: “We are delighted to be working with Professor Aigner and his team to explore opportunities to deliver miRNA’s using our Bio-Courier platform. We have already applied our technology to improve siRNA and mRNA delivery, with great success. This is our first collaboration in micro interfering RNA delivery and expands our programs into a new area of RNA therapy.”

“Pancreatic cancer is an area of high unmet need, and we are encouraged by Professor Aigner’s research and the potential to develop miRNA-based replacement therapies to improve outcomes for patients,” Saffie-Siebert said.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in 2020, an estimated 496,000 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer globally and an estimated 466,000 died from the disease. The 5-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer in the U.S. is 11%. 

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