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Sigma-Aldrich to Buy Proligo; RNAi IP Key to Deal

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Sigma-Aldrich announced this February that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Proligo from specialty chemical giant Degussa, further advancing a wave of consolidation that has been sweeping the RNAi reagent market recently.

According to Sigma-Aldrich, Proligo, which has about 300 employees, racked up sales of $40 million in 2004. Depending on when the acquisition closes, as much as nine months of Proligo’s operating results will be added to Sigma-Aldrich’s top line in 2005, boosting its overall sales growth by 2 percent. Specific terms of the acquisition agreement were not disclosed.

Kirk Richter, treasurer for Sigma-Aldrich, says the company expects the transaction to close early in the second quarter after German regulators approve the deal. He declined to comment on how Proligo would operate following the acquisition, and whether it would be integrated into Sigma-Aldrich or operate as a stand-alone subsidiary, saying that all options are being considered.

Richter says the acquisition will give Sigma-Aldrich “more capabilities in what’s going on in functional genomics these days,” and will extend the company’s gene-silencing capabilities into the RNAi field.

Late last year, Sigma-Aldrich picked up the right to market a gene-silencing technology called TargeTron from Ingex. That technology involves the “specific disruption of bacterial genes by insertion of group II introns,” according to the company’s website.

Richter characterizes TargeTron as “gene knockout” technology, and says that “the acquisition of Proligo gives us capabilities in gene knockdown.” He adds that Sigma-Aldrich does not currently offer any RNAi-related products or services, and Proligo will give the company “a big advantage” in entering the market against entrenched competitors.

RNAi “fits into where we want to be in the life sciences market, and will [help us] continue to make sure we have a complete product line,” Richter says.

— Doug Macron

PATENT WATCH

 

US Patent application 20050048647. siRNA expression system and process for producing functional gene knockdown cell or the like using the same. Inventors: Kazunari Taira, Makoto Miyagishi. Filed: August 13, 2004.

This patent application covers an in vivo siRNA expression system that expresses siRNAs intracellularly and comprises antisense and sense code DNAs, according to the abstract. These code for any region of a target gene mRNA as well as promoters that function to express the antisense and sense messages.

 

US Patent application 20050043266. Short interfering RNA as an antiviral agent for hepatitis C. Assignee: Amgen. Inventors: Sumedha Jayasena, Christopher Richardson. Filed: July 22, 2004.

This invention provides isolated, double-stranded RNA sequences that are effective as antiviral agents for hepatitis C, according to the patent application. The virus’ genome, a single-stranded RNA that operates as messenger RNA and replication template, is a good target for RNAi studies, the abstract adds.

 

Datapoint

$1.5 million

Annual revenues reported by Sirna Therapeutics, compared with $4.2 million in the year before. Meanwhile, the company’s net loss of $28.9 million for 2004 was less than its loss of $30.4 million the previous year.

 

A study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center co-authored by researcher William Pao and president Harold Varmus shows that the target for drugs like Iressa mutates to block the drug in a subset of cancer patients. Another study with similar findings was released by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

 

Illumina has announced plans to acquire microbead-based assay provider CyVera for $17.5 million in cash and stock. The Connecticut CyVera is to become a subsidiary of Illumina, based in San Diego.

 

Cenix BioScience, based in Dresden, Germany, is providing Schering with RNAi research services to help the pharma prioritize its drug targets. In addition to high-throughput RNAi, Cenix is using high-content phenotype analyses in human and mouse cell lines.

 

Sirna Therapeutics announced that some of its team will be bidding adieu to its Boulder, Colo., digs and moving to new corporate headquarters in San Francisco. Meanwhile, some R&D and other operations will remain in Boulder.

 

Ambion formally launched Ambion KK, its Tokyo-based Japanese subsidiary, to be led by Yosuke Sawada. In other news, Ambion’s diagnostics division signed a deal with Wyeth to continue their existing RNA manufacturing agreement.

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