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Tacere Evaluates New Drug Opportunities

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Having found licensees for its lead expressed RNAi drug, the preclinical hepatitis C therapy TT-033, Tacere Therapeutics continues to seek its next pipeline candidate.

According to Tacere CEO and co-founder Sara Hall, the company is in "evaluation mode" and has been in discussions with a number of undisclosed parties, both from academia and industry, about potentially in-licensing new programs.

"We had some really good meetings at [the Biotechnology Industry Organization's international meeting in San Diego] and we've done some pretty extensive due diligence on a couple things," she says.

Still, the search is early-stage, and Hall declined to comment in detail on the indications or therapeutic areas Tacere is considering.

"Some [possibilities] we are still looking at [and] some we've passed on," says Mike Catelani, Tacere chairman, president, and CFO. "We're not in a position at this point to talk about anything we're looking at, but there are some interesting things out there."

But Hall says the fields Tacere is exploring are hinted at by two recent additions to the company's staff. While both have experience with RNAi, "one has more of a [neurology] background and one has an immunology background," Hall says. Catelani notes that Tacere now has six full-time employees.

Despite Hall's reticence, she notes that Tacere expects to find its next pipeline program outside of its own labs and that it will likely remain focused on expressed RNAi.

"We don't really want to start over again like we did with TT-033 because that's a long, hard road," Hall says. "We'd like to pick up something that's at the translational research stage."

TT-033 was originally developed by Avocel, a company Hall co-founded, which was acquired by Australian expressed RNAi firm Benitec in 2004. Following a sweeping corporate reorganization, Benitec licensed the drug's worldwide rights to Tacere in late 2006.

Doug Macron

RNAi Notes

Isis Pharmaceutical is conducting a phase II trial of mipomersen, its antisense-based drug to treat heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. Genzyme exclusively licensed rights to the drug.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals exclusively licensed intellectual property to RNA activation, a gene up-regulation technology. The agreements are with University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; the University of California, San Francisco; and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Pfizer began a phase II trial of PF-4523655, an siRNA-based drug licensed from Quark Pharmaceuticals, in patients with diabetic macular edema. It targets a gene involved in angio-genesis, vascular permeability, and retinal neuron death.

Datapoint

2009
The year during which Sirnaomics plans to begin a phase I trial of its multi-siRNA cocktail for ocular diseases

Funded Grants

$229,600/FY 2008
Novel tumor suppressor gene discovery in pancreatic cancer
Grantee: James Eshleman, Johns Hopkins University
Began: Sep. 1, 2007; Ends Aug. 31, 2009

Eshleman will be using RNAi-based techniques to find novel pancreatic cancer tumor suppressor genes. First, he will transduce non-tumorigenic and weakly tumorigenic pancreas cell lines with an RNAi library and grow them up in agar and in nude mice. Then, he will select tumorigenic cell clones and sequence, test, and validate the RNAi.

$258,052/FY 2008
Inducible RNAi in spermatogonial stem cells
Grantee: Jon Oatley, Pennsylvania State University
Began: Jun. 1, 2008; Ends May 31, 2010

With this grant, Oatley will be seeing if RNAi can lead to advances to treat male infertility. He plans to determine the efficacy of vector-based RNAi on silencing gene expression in spermatogonial stem cells, as well as to evaluate the Tet-On system for inducing RNAi in those cells, and, finally, to determine the efficacy of inducible RNAi to silence essential spermatogonial stem cells' self-renewal genes.

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