Investors inject millions into low-cost RNA tech -

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Investors inject millions into low-cost RNA tech - World The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., March 22, 2021.[Photo/Agencies]

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has struck a $195-million partnership with VaxEquity, a China-backed medical startup that has developed a way to make more affordable RNA treatments.

The companies aim to use RNA techa media release from the ministry saidnology, which has proven highly effective during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the development of dozens of new treatments for ailments that include cancers, respiratory conditions, and infectious diseases.

VaxEquity was founded in 2020 by Imperial College London scientist Robin Shattock and Morningside Ventures, a life sciences investment company with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai.

In a statement, VaxEquity said Morningside Ventures had increased its initial investment and AstraZeneca had taken a stake in the company, as part of a deal based on milestone payments worth $195 million and royalties.

"We have all seen how technologies based around RNA have been fundamental to preventing ongoing severe disease and death in major global pandemics," Shattock said. "The prospect of further therapeutic applications adds to this technology's great potential."

The RNA vaccines used in the COVID-19 pandemic are comparatively expensive, but VaxEquity says its approach will drive down the cost of RNA treatments.

The main distinction from current methods is that VaxEquity will use self-amplifying RNA, or saRNA, which instructs the body to make copies, so an initial dose requires less of the genetic material and is therefore cheaper to manufacture.

The partnership with AstraZeneca will involve the expansion of the VaxEquity research and development platform and an option to create up to 26 new drug targets.

"We are delighted to collaborate with AstraZeneca, given its strong track record in innovation, and welcome them as a new investor," said Michael Watson, executive chair of VaxEquity. "We are also grateful to the ongoing support of our existing investor, Morningside."

Watson said the company's saRNA platform will "underpin

the next generation of RNA-delivered medicines" and enable the development ocomf not only vaccines but also a "broad range of therapeutic applications".

Scientists elsewhere are already using RNA technology to target diseases in addition to COVID-19. German company BioNTech, which developed an RNA COVID-19 shot with Pfizer, has several RNA cancer therapies in its clinical trials pipeline; one of which is now being tested in a human trial of 231 people with advanced melanoma, breast cancer, and other solid tumors.

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