AbbVie has announced a collaboration with US-based Anima Biotech for discovering and developing mRNA biology modulators for three targets in oncology and immunology.

The partnership will use Anima Biotech’s mRNA Lightning technology platform and AbbVie’s expertise in oncology and immunology to discover novel mRNA biology modulators.

AbbVie will get exclusive rights for licensing and developing and marketing the three programmes.

According to the agreement, Anima Biotech will get a $42m upfront payment with the possibility of additional payments towards research and development milestones, royalties on net sales, and option fees, totalling up to $540m.

The partnership will also have the option to add three more targets under the same terms as the initial deal, thus potentially increasing the overall collaboration value, AbbVie said.

AbbVie vice president and discovery research global head Jonathon Sedgwick said: “This collaboration will give AbbVie access to Anima’s leading technology platform and deep expertise in mRNA biology and will help further strengthen AbbVie’s world class capabilities in discovering and developing drugs to make a difference in patient’s lives.

“Modulating mRNA biology with small molecules is a new approach and has the potential to address ‘undruggable’ targets with implications across multiple therapy areas.”

The mRNA Lightning technology platform is intended for the discovery of small molecule mRNA drugs and their mechanisms of action. It combines high-scale phenotypic screening with MOAi technology using artificial intelligence (AI) to elucidate the mechanism of action of active molecules.

Anima Biotech co-founder and CEO Yochi Slonim said: “Anima’s differentiated approach in the field of small molecule mRNA drugs combines phenotypic screening with AI-driven elucidation of the mechanisms of action. The power of our mRNA Lightning platform is validated by our multiple partnerships and a growing internal pipeline.

“We are excited to partner with AbbVie, a recognised global leader in Oncology and Immunology, and are looking forward to start working with their excellent scientific team in a close collaboration.”

Last month, AbbVie secured approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for VRAYLAR as an adjunctive therapy to antidepressants for major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults.