Targeting RNA represents a paradigm shift for drug discovery. The ability to seek out and destroy, or change, a faulty RNA template, before the toxic protein has even been made, has only recently begun to be harnessed for the benefit of patients.
As of this blog, only 16 oligonucleotide drugs have been marketed, with an exponential increase in clinical trials and development exploding in this area.
There exist different mechanisms of action for an oligonucleotide drug, all of which are transient and reversible effects and do not include alteration of the DNA, unlike Gene therapy.
Antisense Oligonucleotides harness endogenous systems already existing within a cell to achieve their purpose, with the only limitation being accessibility of the target tissue. Once bound with great specificity to its RNA target, a short synthetic oligonucleotide can cause degradation, upregulation of the translated protein, or alteration of a splicing event leading to correctly folded protein. Longer Oligonucleotides can fold into 3 dimensional shapes called Aptamers with similar target affinities and applications as antibodies, and shorter oligonucleotides can act as miR mimetics or antagonists to alter multiple targets or pathways at the same time with subtle but broader effect.
The precision accuracy of an oligonucleotide and its ability to correct a faulty RNA produced by an error in the genetic code, lends itself to the rare disease therapeutic area and toxic gain of function mutations. The field of oligonucleotide therapeutics is moving to address this as a whole and to innovate a new preclinical and regulatory path that could be adapted for these more unique diseases to make this type of therapy more accessible.
Evotec is a leader in integrated Research and Development (EVOiR&D) and has built substantial drug discovery expertise and technical capabilities that can drive new innovative, diverse modalities into the clinic. In addition, Evotec has built a deep internal knowledge base in key therapeutic areas including neuroscience, pain, immunology, respiratory, women’s health, aging, fibrosis, inflammation, oncology, metabolic and infectious diseases. Leveraging these skills and expertise, Evotec successfully delivers on superior science-driven discovery alliances with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
The global interest in this new modality area has led to high demand in oligonucleotide synthesis and the chemistry surrounding it, such as covalent linkages and complex formulations. Evotec has oligonucleotide manufacturing capabilities as well as ligand and linker chemistry expertise to support discovery projects and is now expanding its capacity to support development stage oligonucleotide projects.
We are extremely proud to share that we have installed the first Cytiva AKTA oligosyntTM in Europe at our Evotec site in Verona.
This new state of the art equipment will allow for the synthesis of complex modified oligonucleotides (ASOs, siRNAs etc) on a scale from 0.5 to 50 g (up to 12 millimoles) to support the initial preclinical development studies.
This is a key milestone for Evotec, and, together with the brand-new AKTA flux 6 and AKTA Pure 150, this new oligonucleotide synthetiser will complete the fully integrated oligo suite Evotec Campus Levi-Montalcini in Verona. Currently both the Verona and Toulouse Evotec sites are equipped to support Drug Discovery programmes in the RNA therapeutics field with the synthesis of oligonucleotides on a research scale and now, Evotec, at the Verona site, has the capability to also support the preclinical and clinical development studies, i.e. analytical and bioanalytical activities.
We look forward to discussing with you – our partners from new or existing collaborations- how we can best help your oligo project succeed.