Sanofi-Aventis is the latest drugs giant to expand its efforts in the RNA arena and has linked up with Regulus Therapeutics in a deal that could be worth some $750 million to the latter.

The firms have entered into a global strategic alliance to discover, develop, and commercialise microRNA therapeutics and will initially focus on the fibrosis. Sanofi noted that microRNAs are a new class of small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression, adding that “the association of microRNA dysfunction with disease phenotypes has given rise to an entirely new class of pharmaceutically relevant targets”.

Regulus, which was set up in 2007 and is jointly owned by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Isis Pharmaceuticals, will receive a $25 million upfront fee and a future $10 million equity investment “subject to mutual agreement on company valuation”. The deal could be valued at over $750 million when taking into account various milestone payments for multiple products.

Marc Cluzel, head of R&D at Sanofi, noted that micro-RNAs “are believed to be extremely important in human development and physiology. Together with Regulus we will develop therapeutics which could potentially open a new paradigm in the treatment of major diseases and could offer an attractive new therapeutic approach”.