Tacere Therapeutics, a San Jose, Calif., biotech developing new RNA-based drugs, struck a partnership with Tokyo’s Oncolys BioPharma to co-develop a treatment for hepatitis C. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms of the deal.

In exchange for an undisclosed equity investment in Tacere, Oncolys will hold an option to acquire Asian rights to Tacere’s drug TT-033, which Tacere hopes to move into clinical trials late next year.

TT-033 is a drug based on a new and so far unproven technology called RNA interference, or RNAi, which uses short snippets of RNA to “silence” particular genes. In this case, TT-033 contains three separate RNAi molecules designed to shut down replication of all strains of the hepatitis C virus. The drug is to be delivered via what the company calls “an AAV protein coat,” which seems to refers to the envelope proteins of an adeno-associated virus. Tacere claims that this strategy delivers the drug’s RNAi strands directly to liver cells, where the hepatitis C virus replicates.

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