NEW YORK - Inspirna, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing first-in-class cancer therapeutics, announced today a licensing agreement with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, for ompenaclid (RGX-202), a first-in-class oral inhibitor of the creatine transport channel SLC6A8, currently in development for RAS mutated (RASm) second-line (2L) advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and SLC6a8 targeting follow-on compounds.

'We are excited to partner with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leader in the oncology field with global drug development and commercial expertise in colorectal cancer specifically, to help bring our novel therapies to more patients in need,' said Dr. Usman 'Oz' Azam, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Inspirna. 'The data to date validates our belief in ompenaclid as a potential first-in-class therapy for advanced colorectal cancer and underscores the power of our proprietary target discovery platform RNA-DRIVEr. We look forward to working closely with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, as we continue to evaluate ompenaclid in a Phase 2 randomized controlled trial.'

'Over the past decade, the treatment paradigm for patients with RAS-mutated CRC, accounting for approximately 45% of second-line population, has not seen major innovation,' said Victoria Zazulina, M.D., Head, Development Unit, Oncology for the Healthcare business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. 'With our expertise in the treatment of CRC, and based on the encouraging early data for ompenaclid, this agreement with Inspirna offers the opportunity to advance a potential new first-in-class therapy that may improve outcomes for patients.'

Under the terms of the license agreement, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany will receive an exclusive license to ompenaclid outside of the United States and an option to co-develop and co-promote ompenaclid in the US. Furthermore, the parties agreed to collaborate on Inspirna's SLC6A8 follow-on compounds for which Inspirna will retain US co-development and co-commercialization rights. Inspirna will receive an upfront payment of $45 million. Upon the achievement of certain development and sales milestones for ompenaclid, Inspirna is eligible to receive milestone payments with tiered royalty rates in the low teens on net sales outside of the US. Inspirna is eligible to also receive development, regulatory and sales milestone payments for each follow-on compound targeting SLC6A8 along with up to double-digit royalties on net sales outside of the US.

Inspirna most recently presented clinical data from the Phase 1b/2 study of ompenaclid in combination with FOLFIRI and bevacizumab at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress in October 2023. Results as of the September 18, 2023 data cutoff showed encouraging efficacy and safety data, including a median progression-free survival of 10.2 months and median overall survival of 19.1 months across all 41 patients with 2L RASm mCRC. Of the 30 evaluable patients for response, the objective response rate was 37%, with 11 partial responses. Ompenaclid was well-tolerated, with no dose-limiting toxicities observed in the dose-escalation cohort and combination safety profile comparable to FOLFIRI plus bevacizumab backbone treatment.

Inspirna has initiated a Phase 2 double-blind randomized controlled trial in 2L RAS mutant advanced or metastatic mCRC comparing ompenaclid versus placebo plus FOLFIRI and bevacizumab.

About Inspirna

Inspirna, Inc., is a privately-held clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of novel cancer drugs that target key pathways in cancers of high unmet need. The company is pursuing several first-in-class drug candidates. Inspirna's lead drug candidate, ompenaclid (RGX-202), is an orally-administered small molecule that targets the CKB/SLC6A8 pathway. This pathway becomes activated in the tumors of select patients where it enables the generation of the energy molecule ATP in response to tumor hypoxia. Ompenaclid is currently being tested in multiple mid stage clinical trials in patients with advanced or metastatic RAS mutant colorectal cancer.

Inspirna's second clinical stage drug candidate, abequolixron (RGX-104), is an oral small molecule activator of LXR/APOE that inhibits angiogenesis and tumor myeloid derived suppressor cells to enhance the immune response against tumors. Abequolixron is currently being tested in a Phase 1b/2 clinical trial in patients with advanced or metastatic lung cancer in combination with docetaxel and endometrial cancer in combination with ipilimumab through a clinical collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb.

Inspirna identifies novel cancer targets using its microRNA-based target discovery platform, RNA-DRIVEr, which was originally developed by Inspirna's scientific co-founders at The Rockefeller University and exclusively licensed to Inspirna. The Company brings together distinguished scientific founders, a seasoned board of directors, and a leadership team comprised of experienced drug developers. The Company is funded by leading biotechnology investors, including Novo Holdings A/S, Sofinnova Partners, Sands Capital, Vivo Capital, Lepu Holdings Limited, Sixty Degree Capital, Silicon Valley Bank, K2 HealthVentures, Oceanpine Capital, WuXi PharmaTech Healthcare Fund I, LP, Alexandria Venture Investments, LLC, Dreavent 6, Exor Seeds, and the Partnership Fund for New York City.


Maeve Conneighton

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