Aptamer agrees Optimer trials with AstraZeneca

York-based Aptamer Group plc said it signed a new agreement with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to evaluate fibrotic liver delivery vehicles for small interfering RNS, known as siRNA, a growing part of gene therapy. 

The company’s shares jumped 18% on the London Stock Exchange. 

Under the agreement, AstraZeneca will provide an siRNA to be trialled with Aptamer’s Optimer-based delivery vehicle for fibrotic liver cells. Aptamer Group will conduct in-house experimental work to assess the effectiveness of this delivery vehicle with AstraZeneca’s siRNA. If successful, Aptamer Group will progress to internally generating demonstrator data in animal models for evaluation by AstraZeneca.

Delivery of siRNA to precise cell types and tissues with successful cell internalisation remains problematic for the wider therapeutic application of the technology. However, Aptamer said the siRNA market was still valued at over $13 billion in 2023. 

Dr Arron Tolley, Chief Technical Officer of Aptamer Group, said: “Partnerships such as this will enable Aptamer Group to make rapid progress in this area, which is a key focus for Optimer technology.”

“Targeted delivery to specific cell types remains a critical unmet need in many applications within the tissue targeting space and, as such, has been part of our strategic focus to support the development of binders with the potential for long-term, high value. Our initial dataset in Optimer targeted delivery has raised significant interest from multiple parties. We are eager to advance to animal model testing and delighted to continue collaborating with AstraZeneca in this endeavour. Reaching proof of principle in animal models will derisk the Optimer delivery platform and bring us closer to delivering targeted and effective gene therapies for patients.”