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Sirna Announces Respiratory Deal with GSK


Sirna Therapeutics announced early last month that it has formed a multi-year alliance with GlaxoSmithKline for the discovery, development, and commercialization of RNAi-based treatments for respiratory diseases.

While the companies did not disclose specific indications they plan to investigate through the partnership, comments Sirna President and CEO Howard Robin made during a conference call strongly indicate that asthma will be an initial focus. He said there is “a high level of interest in asthma,” and added that Sirna has “already presented some … work we've done in the area of asthma … [and] I'm pretty sure we'll continue that work with GSK.”

Gwenan Evans, director of science communications for GlaxoSmithKline, says that the partnership would be investigating “a broad range” of respiratory conditions, but said that asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as the two biggest respiratory indications, “would be a key focus for the research.”

Separately last month, Sirna reported that the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted it the first RNAi target-specific patent in the US, increasing the likelihood the USPTO will award more of roughly 250 other target-specific patent applications the company has filed.

The deal with GlaxoSmithKline represents “a reproducible transaction model” of “therapeutic-focused and target-focused partnerships” that the company plans to incorporate into future collaborations.

“The issuance of this patent changes the IP landscape in the field of RNAi," Howard Robin, president and CEO of Sirna, said in a statement. "We believe that the combination of our target patents with our patents in siRNA design, chemistry, synthesis, and manufacturing gives Sirna Therapeutics a dominant intellectual property estate in the field of RNAi-based therapeutics.”

— Doug Macron

Short Reads

Researchers led by Mohan Sapru at Northwestern University have demonstrated that an shRNA-expressing lentiviral vector can be used to silence the alpha-synuclein gene, a key contributor to the development of familial Parkinson’s disease. Forthcoming in vivo data may lead to a collaboration with industry and ultimately human trials.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals President and CEO John Maraganore has adopted a prearranged stock trading plan under which he may sell approximately 84,000 shares of the company stock — approximately 7 percent of his total ownership of Alnylam stock and stock option holdings.

The University of California at Santa Barbara has been awarded a two-year grant worth $1.25 million from the WM Keck Foundation’s Medical Research Program to support a broad microRNA research initiative.

Directly after licensing certain of its siRNA-related technology to Merck, SR Pharma said that two of its siRNA molecules are slated to enter the clinic this year through a collaboration with Quark Biotech. Quark plans to use the siRNAs for acute renal failure and AMD.

Calando Pharmaceuticals reported that it has secured an additional $10 million in funding from its parent company, Arrowhead Research. The money is expected to give the RNAi startup flexibility in pursuing potential partnerships.


US Patent application 20060058256. Oligoribonucleotides for the Treatment of Degenerative Skin Conditions by RNA Interference. Inventors: Ute Breitenbach, Stefan Gallinat, Ludger Kolbe, Thomas Blatt, Helga Biergiesser, Rainer Wolber, Franz Stab, and Kyra Sanger. Assignee: Beiersdorf AG. Filed: May 20, 2005.

“The invention relates to oligoribonucleotides, which are capable of inducing breakdown of the mRNA enzymes that break down connective tissue, and to pharmaceutical and cosmetic compositions, which are provided for topical application and which contain the oligoribonucleotides,” the patent application’s abstract states. “The compositions are particularly suited for treating degenerative skin disorders.”

US Patent application 20060058255. RNAi-Based Therapeutics for Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma. Inventors: Jianzhu Chen, Herman Eisen, and Qing Ge. Filed: March 1, 2005.

The invention provides compositions comprising one or more RNAi agents, such as siRNAs, shRNAs, or RNAi vectors for the treatment of conditions and diseases in which IgE, and/or cells that produce IgE plays a major role. Additionally, the invention provides RNAi agent/delivery agent compositions and methods of use. In certain embodiments of the invention compositions comprising an RNAi agent are delivered via the respiratory route.



Fox Chase Cancer Center has joined Dharmacon's Genome-Wide RNAi Global Initiative, thereby becoming the alliance’s 11th member since the initiative was formed last October.

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