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Sirna Licenses Tuschl s RNAi Technology from UMass

This article has been updated from a previous version to include comments from a Sirna Therapeutics spokeswoman and additional information on other licensees of the intellectual property.

NEW YORK, Sept. 9 (GenomeWeb News) - Sirna Therapeutics of Boulder, Colo., has entered into a worldwide license agreement with the University of Massachusetts Medical School for RNA interference technology covering short interfering RNA, the company said today.

The license covers a patent application filed by RNAi pioneer Thomas Tuschl and colleagues (International PCT Publication No. WO 01/75164), which was jointly developed and is owned by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Max-Planck Institute, Whitehead Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tuschl is now at Rockefeller University.

The patent covers the use of siRNAs in inhibiting gene expression in mammalian cells. The license grants Sirna rights to the "undivided interest" of the Medical School in the Tuschl et al., IP for uses relating to human and veterinary therapeutic, prophylactic, diagnostic, and health care applications.

A Sirna spokeswoman told GenomeWeb News that the deal gives Sirna "exclusive access to UMass's position" on the intellectual property, except for a limited number of targets for which the company has non-exclusive rights to the technology.

Alnylam Holdings, one of Sirna's competitors in the RNAi sector, previously licensed the remaining portion of the intellectual property owned by Max-Planck, Whitehead, and MIT.

Under the terms of the license agreement, the UMass Medical School will receive licensing fees in cash and common stock from Sirna, and may receive additional cash and common stock following the achievement of certain milestones. The Medical School may also receive royalties on commercial product sales covered by the licensed patents.

Sirna said that it would share any revenues generated from the sublicensing of the patent to the Medical School.

Howard Robin, president and CEO of Sirna, said the company plans "to broadly offer sublicenses to this intellectual property."

Sirna said in August  that it plans to begin clinical trials of at least one siRNA drug candidate next year.

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