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What happened

Shares of the clinical-stage RNAi therapeutics company Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARWR) gained more than 10% in early morning trading today. This northward move was sparked by a collaboration with biotech heavyweight Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) to develop and possibly commercialize two of Arrowhead's experimental cardiovascular therapies

According to the press release, Amgen agreed to a global license for Arrowhead's RNAi ARC-LPA program designed as a novel treatment for elevated lipoprotein(a), a known risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. In a separate deal, Amgen will also receive an option for a global license to an RNAi therapy indicated for undisclosed cardiovascular target. Amgen will be responsible for the clinical development and commercialization of both experimental therapies.

So what

This deal is important for Arrowhead because it provides a much-needed infusion of cash. Specifically, the biotech is set to receive $35 million in upfront payments, along with $21.5 million via an equity investment by Amgen in Arrowhead's common stock. That's a big deal for a company that exited the most recent quarter with less than $45 million in cash, yet has a quarterly burn rate of approximately $19 million.  

Now what

The key issue to understand is that Amgen's twin licensing deals revolve around therapies that are still in the pre-clinical stage of development. So while it's always a good thing when a top biotech takes an interest in your platform, the fact remains that these therapies will take several years to make their way through the clinical testing process. As such, Arrowhead's shareholders should probably remain focused on the company's more advanced clinical assets -- such as ARC-520 and ARC-521 for hepatitis B -- when considering if this stock is worth buying right now.

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