AVI BioPharma and Ercole Biotech are working together to identify and develop drugs that direct the splicing of mRNA to treat a variety of genetic and acquired diseases. Under this cross-license and collaboration agreement, each party is granting the other rights under their respective patents for RNA splice-altering technologies.
Under the license agreement, AVI and Ercole will each select a set of specific gene targets to investigate the potential therapeutic effects of shifting splicing of those genes. AVI refers to its approach as Esprit (Exon Skipping Pre-RNA Interference Technology). Ercole uses the Splice Switching Oligonucleotide (SSO) in referring to its drug discovery platform to redirect mRNA splicing.
Ercole also received an exclusive license to AVI’s Nuegene® third-generation antisense chemistry for the specific targets that it will select. Neugene molecules are also referred to as phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs). “Our recent experiments have shown that PMOs are more effective in splice switching and up-regulation of test genes in muscle as well as heart tissues of treated mice than are a number of other chemistries we have tested,” says Ryszard Kole, Ph.D., president and CSO of Ercole. “This agreement gives us access to AVI’s proprietary PMO chemistry for gene targets that are of high interest to Ercole and extends the range of oligonucleotide chemistries Ercole can utilize in developing its SSO technology.”
AVI will issue Ercole shares of its common stock, and Ercole will issue AVI shares of Ercole Series A-2 Preferred Stock.