Novo Nordisk Snaps Up Partner Dicerna for $3.3 Billion

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Shares of Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, a company developing RNAi therapeutics, have exploded this morning after Novo Nordisk announced plans to acquire the Lexington, Mass.-based company for $3.3 billion. The stock has skyrocketed more than 78% in premarket trading.

According to the company's statement, "Dicerna’s RNAi technology platform enables access to intracellular disease targets across the hepatic and extrahepatic cell and tissue types." Novo Nordisk sees this as integral to its current technology platforms. "This acquisition supports Novo Nordisk’s strategy of developing and applying a broad range of technology platforms across all Novo Nordisk therapeutic areas."

Novo Nordisk and Dicerna are no strangers. The companies have been collaborating on the development of RNAi therapies for liver disease for the past three years. 

In 2019, the two companies entered into a collaboration to leverage Dicerna’s GalXC RNAi technology platform for more than 30 liver cell targets. The companies partnered to explore a broad range of disease indications, including chronic liver disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), type 2 diabetes, obesity and rare diseases. 

Through RNAi (RNA interference), specific double-stranded RNA molecules inhibit the expression of disease-causing genes. RNAi targets messenger RNA (mRNA), which delivers the gene coding to the machinery of the cell that creates protein.

With the acquisition, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk will accelerate the drive to the clinic with the assets under development. The company aims for the first RNAi asset to move into human testing in 2022, according to Novo Nordisk Chief Scientific Officer Marcus Schindler.

“We build on our successful collaboration and by combining Dicerna’s state-of-the-art RNAi drug engine and intracellular delivery with our deep capabilities in disease biology understanding and tissue targeting through peptides and proteins we have the potential to expand our pipeline and deliver life-changing precision medicines for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and NASH, as well as rare diseases like endocrine disorders and bleeding disorders," Schindler said in a statement.  

Dicerna Founder and Chief Executive Officer Douglas Fambrough said the two companies have built a strong rapport since the forging of that 2019 collaboration. The merger of the companies is expected to enhance the continued collaborative efforts and potentially bring forth new therapies for patients. 

“The combination of Dicerna’s expertise in RNAi and oligonucleotide therapeutics and highly skilled employees with Novo Nordisk’s industry leadership in developing and commercializing medicines to treat serious chronic diseases has the potential to significantly accelerate and expand our mission to deliver GalXC RNAi therapies for the benefit of patients and all our stakeholders,” Fambrough said. 

Under terms of the acquisition, Novo Nordisk will acquire outstanding shares of Dicerna at $38.25 per share in cash, a premium of 80% to Dicerna’s closing price on Nov. 17. The total value of the deal is $3.3 billion. The merger was unanimously supported by both the boards of directors of Dicerna and Novo Nordisk. 

Through the acquisition of Dicerna, Novo Nordisk will also gain previous partnerships with other companies, including Roche, Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim


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