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Where Are They Now?: May 1, 2004

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It’s hard to believe that it was just a year ago that RNAi really burst onto the scene, paid tribute with the May 2003 cover article in Genome Technology. The technology had been around for a few years by that point, but as we reported last year, it was just beginning to really gain ground in the scientific community in a high-throughput way.

Of the siRNA vendors we looked at in that article, one of the three biggies, Dharmacon, has since been acquired by Fisher Scientific International, in another sign that the field continues to heat up. Stephen Scaringe, formerly CEO of that company, last summer became CSO instead. Now, he says he expects to become part of the Fisher management team as the acquisition wraps up.

Also in the May ’03 issue, Genome Technology reported that Promega had gotten some good news: a higher court agreed with the original ruling in the company’s case against Roche seeking to overturn the patent protecting the original Taq polymerase. That patent is now unenforceable. In the time since, Roche has become embroiled in another lawsuit, this time with PCR partner Applied Biosystems, which claims that Roche has violated the agreement that outlines how the companies divvy up control of the lucrative patent estate.

Our finance column a year ago looked into claims that the window might be opening up again for companies hoping to host an IPO. Admittedly, we were skeptical at the time, but two months ago gene silencing firm Alnylam Pharmaceuticals became the first company in this space in recent memory to file for an IPO. That could mean a sunnier outlook for genomics companies this year, and it also reinforces the market strength of RNAi-based science.

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