AstraZeneca has entered into a strategic collaboration with US biopharmaceutical group Regulus Therapeutics to discover, develop, and commercialise microRNA therapeutics.

The Anglo-Swedish drug giant is paying $28 million - which includes an equity investment and an upfront fee - in order to exclusively collaborate with Regulus on the development of three preclinical targets focusing on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and oncology.

Regulus will lead preclinical activities of the three chosen microRNA targets - including its lead cardiovascular/metabolic disease program targeting microRNA-33 for the treatment of atherosclerosis - and could potentially receive related milestone payments, while AZ will lead and pay for their clinical development and commercialisation.

Under the terms of the deal, Regulus also stands to receive further clinical, launch, and commercial milestone payments for the successful development of microRNA therapies in each target area, as well as sales-based royalties.

"Through this collaboration we will marry Regulus’ expertise in the microRNA field with our own internal drug development experience with the goal of bringing new treatment options to patients with atherosclerosis-related disease, metabolic disturbances, cancer and potentially other therapeutic areas of interest to AstraZeneca," said Gunnar Olsson, vice president and head of AZ's Cardiovascular & Gastrointestinal Innovative Medicines Unit.