France's Servier has linked up with Miragen Therapeutics for a cardiovascular pact that could net the US biotech $352 million and potentially much more.

The collaboration centres around developing microRNA-based therapeutics for cardiovascular and muscle disease. It involves three drug candidates, including two of Miragen’s lead programmes (miR-208 and miR-15/195) and one additional target yet to be identified. 

Servier gets rights to the drugs, excluding the USA and Japan, and will cough up to $45 million in total upfront, research support and near-term milestone payments over the next three years. Miragen says it could pocket $352 million, plus double-digit royalties on sales in markets outside the USA and Japan, but claims the total deal value, assuming the successful development of the three compounds, is around $1 billion.

Servier will be responsible for all costs associated with the global development, regulatory approval and commercialisation of the three product candidates. Jean-Paul Vilaine, head of the French firm's cardiovascular unit, said that "more and more evidence is gathering to show that some microRNAs are not only cardiovascular biomarkers, but they also play a significant role in the pathogenesis of various diseases from heart failure to coronary disease".

Miragen chief executive William Marshall said the agreement with Servier "not only provides validation of our lead programmes in cardiac disease, but further underscores the potential of our innovative technology platform to deliver compelling drug candidates". He added that "by combining our strengths, we hope to translate the potential of microRNA targeting into life-changing medicines ".

Miragen’s lead programmes use technology licensed from Denmark's Santaris Pharma and that agreement has now been expanded to give Servier access to the latter.

Servier, which is still under the cloud of controversy caused by Mediator (benfluorex), the withdrawn diabetes treatment linked to the deaths of up to 2,000 people, has been racking up the deals of late. Pacts with fellow French firm Hybrigenics and the USA's Cortex were signed last week and earlier this month it entered into an oncology partnership with Galapagos.