Roche Bets Big on Peptides for Tackling Tough Diseases

| About: Roche Holding (RHHBY)

By Michael Fitzhugh

Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) is investing $25 million to back a drug-delivery technology developed by Aileron Therapeutics, a small company that stands to earn $1.1 billion in milestone payments plus royalties should its technology help Roche develop successful new medicines.

By stapling peptides, the basic building blocks of proteins, into shapes that efficiently penetrate cells and bind with proteins, Aileron's technology helps expand and extend a medicine’s opportunities to create positive, therapeutic effects before it’s broken down by the body.

Drugs developed with Aileron's methods represent “a potentially transformative new technology,” says Jean-Jacques Garaud, Roche’s global head of pharma research and early development.

Roche did not identify the diseases it will target with the new technology, but says they’ll be part of the company’s key areas of focus, which include oncology, virology, inflammation, metabolism and the central nervous system. Aileron will have to help develop drug candidates for all five targets to be eligible to receive all the milestone payments.

Joseph Yanchik, Aileron's president and CEO, says the company took its time picking a partner, ultimately picking Roche because of “its history with peptide therapeutics and its commitment to tackling difficult disease targets.”

Aileron, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is still about three years out from proving its technology can work in people, but has already shown its success in animal models.

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