Boehringer Ingelheim has signed a second deal focused on the development of RNA therapeutics for liver diseases.

The German drugmaker is linking with UK-based MiNA Therapeutics to development novel compounds to treat fibrotic liver diseases such as NASH, based on MiNA’s small activating RNA (saRNA) therapeutics platform.

NASH is a major cause of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis and an area of high unmet medical need. It has an especially high prevalence among obese and diabetic patients and currently there are no treatments available.

saRNAs can activate transcription of specific genes resulting in up-regulation of proteins with therapeutic potential.

BI and MiNA aim to identify targets to restore metabolic functionality of hepatocytes and prevent fibrotic tissue formation in patients with NASH.

This will enable BI to rapidly design, profile and develop novel compounds, potentially also creating opportunities for combination with its other NASH-pipeline assets.

Under the terms of the deal, MiNA will bank an upfront payment and committed research funding as well as potential research, development and regulatory milestone payments totalling up to 307 million Euros.

MiNA is also entitled to up to double-digit royalties on sales of selected products resulting from the partnership.

“This new collaboration is another sign of our ongoing commitment to patients with cardio-metabolic diseases, including NASH,” said Clive R. Wood, corporate senior vice president discovery research at BI. “It will combine MiNA’s pioneering work with saRNAs with our expertise in biopharmaceutical research and development.”

The deal comes just days after BI inked with US group Dicerna Pharmaceuticals to develop new RNAi therapeutics for liver diseases, with an initial focus on NASH.

Dicerna’s GalXC technology platform uses RNAi to inhibit the expression of disease-causing genes by destroying the messenger RNAs of those genes, an approach that has the potential to treat diseases by silencing previously inaccessible drug targets.