AstraZeneca extends oligonucleotide conjugate drug delivery pact with Aptamer

Research & development (Image: AstraZeneca)
AstraZeneca and Aptamer are putting aptamer-drug conjugates through early-stage drug development. (AstraZeneca)

AstraZeneca has extended its drug delivery collaboration with Aptamer Group. The revised deal sets AstraZeneca up to build on research into the use of aptamer molecules to target renal cells.

In 2019, AstraZeneca teamed up with Aptamer to explore the feasibility of developing aptamer-drug conjugates. The proposed modality was a twist on antibody-drug conjugates. Rather than direct the therapeutic payload to target cells using antibodies, AstraZeneca proposed to use oligonucleotide or peptide molecules known as aptamers as the delivery mechanism.

The interest in using aptamers rather than antibodies was based on evidence that the molecules can fold into distinct secondary or tertiary shapes. By folding, aptamers could have superior affinity and specificity for targets, potentially making them better delivery mechanisms than antibodies in some contexts.

AstraZeneca and Aptamer agreed to spend two years exploring the feasibility of the modality and its applicability to renal disease in 2019. With that initial deal having run its course, the partners have chosen to extend the agreement. The extension reflects AstraZeneca’s continued interest in using the molecules to direct therapeutic payloads. 

“Oligonucleotide conjugates offer the potential to reach a specific cell or tissue, and have the potential to have a real impact for new drug targets identified in renal disease. By working together with Aptamer Group and leveraging their Optimer-based strategies we aim to identify novel targeting aptamers to deliver drug molecules to the kidney,” Regina Fritsche Danielson, Ph.D., head of research and early development, cardiovascular, renal and metabolism at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

The concept predates the AstraZeneca-Aptamer collaboration but is yet to make the same level of impact as the better-established antibody-drug conjugate modality. AstraZeneca and Aptamer are working to change that by putting aptamer-drug conjugates through early-stage drug development.