hepatocellular carcinoma

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Ascletis Pharmaceuticals have partnered to develop ALN-VSP, a systemically delivered RNAi therapeutic for the treatment of liver cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Ascletis has gained an exclusive license from Alnylam to develop and commercialise ALN-VSP in China, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, while Alnylam retains all rights in the rest of the world, and is eligible to obtain milestones and royalties based on product sales.

Laurence Reid, Alnylam senior vice president and chief business officer, said Ascletis has the appropriate expertise in place to advance ALN-VSP through that region’s clinical and regulatory system.

"With this collaboration, we are able to develop ALN-VSP globally through the product’s advancement in a region where HCC is a particular challenge," Reid added.

"As we retain all rights in the rest of the world, this partnering strategy provides multiple future opportunities for Alnylam to advance this novel therapeutic in other markets."

As a part of the collaboration, Ascletis will advance ALN-VSP into a phase II study for the treatment of HCC. Alnylam may use the data generated in China by Ascletis for development of ALN-VSP in the rest of the world.

Subsequently, Ascletis may potentially receive sublicense payments based on any such future partnerships. The financial details were not disclosed.

Jinzi Wu, Ascletis president and chief executive officer, said liver cancers, and specifically HCC, are a major unmet need in China, which has the highest rates of this aggressive cancer in the world.

"No effective therapies currently exist for this disease. Alnylam is a global leader in the development of innovative RNAi-based therapies, and we are pleased to be collaborating with them in the war on cancer," Wu added.

Image: Intermediate magnification micrograph of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of primary liver cancer. Photo: courtesy of Nephron.