French biopharmaceutical company Ipsen and Skyhawk Therapeutics have teamed up to discover and develop RNA-targeting small molecules to treat rare neurological diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ipsen would acquire an exclusive global license to develop successful development candidates (DC).

Skyhawk will receive up to $1.8bn for the option and research collaboration, upfront payment, development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, and tiered royalties.

The agreement also provides Ipsen an option to receive exclusive global rights to two candidates developed under the collaboration, after nominating successful DCs.

The French drugmaker will be responsible for the further development and commercialisation of the two candidates, using existing neuroscience expertise in movement disorders.

Ipsen SVP and neuroscience research and development head Steve Glyman said: “We are delighted to join forces with the expert teams at Skyhawk, as we explore the potential for modifying RNA expression across rare and debilitating neurological conditions.

“Our focus and expertise in movement disorders, and across our portfolio, is bringing best and first-in-class treatments to those with the highest unmet needs, now further fueled by this novel platform at the cutting-edge of research.”

Skyhawk is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on novel small molecules that modify RNA expression, targeting the world`s most intractable diseases.

Its unique platform advances the development of RNA-targeting small molecules across several therapeutic areas, including rare neurological diseases.

The platform combines four complementary data sets to discover and design small molecule drugs against RNA molecules that are upstream of disease-causing proteins.

The first component of Skyhawk’s platform is SKYSTAR, which combs through public and proprietary data, and computation biology information to identify high-value RNA targets.

SKYSEQ is a multiplex screening system that tests several targets and searches Skyhawk’s repository SKYLIBRARY for RNA-targeting compounds that may have therapeutic effects.

Skyhawk chief scientific officer Sergey Paushkin said: “Ipsen is an extraordinary company with a deep passion for serving patients, and we are excited to partner with them to expand their pipeline of innovative therapies.

“Our strategic partnership underscores our shared ambition to develop transformative medicines for people with rare neurological diseases for which there are no approved therapeutics.”