AstraZeneca has picked the first compound for clinical development under its 2012 microRNA therapeutics collaboration with Regulus Therapeutics, triggering a $2.5-million-milestone to the latter firm.

The chosen candidate is RG-125 (AZD4076), which is being developed for the treatment of Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), a form of liver disease, in patients with type II diabetes/pre-diabetes.

“RG-125 acts as a novel insulin sensitizer which we believe may inform a differentiated development path to treat patients with complicated metabolic disorders," noted Neil Gibson, Regulus’ chief scientific officer.

AZ will now assume development of the program - following acceptance of an Investigational New Drug application - and a Phase I clinical trial is expected to start before the end of the year.