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Oxford Nanopore, UC-Santa Cruz, MDRNA, University of Michigan, Aruna Biomedical, University of Georgia, NCBC, Arbovax, Fairbanks Foundation, IU School of Medicine, CTSI, Oxford U’s Isis, NCI, Morphotek, BN ImmunoTherapeutics, Johns Hopkins, Axela

Oxford Nanopore Licenses DNA-Analysis Technology from UCSC
Oxford Nanopore Technologies has licensed protein nanopore technology with applications in single-molecule DNA sequencing and molecular sensing from the University of California, Santa Cruz, the company said this week.
The firm also has agreed to fund research programs conducted by David Deamer and Mark Akeson, the UCSC scientists who developed the nanopore technology.
Oxford Nanopore said its first generation of nanopore sequencing “is poised to be the first label-free DNA sequencing system,” which could offer “a dramatic improvement” in the speed and cost of sequencing.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.
The agreement with UCSC follows a deal announced earlier this month in which Oxford Nanopore licensed intellectual property related to nanopore technology from Harvard University, which included discoveries made at UCSC (see BTW, 8/6/2008).
Oxford Nanopore also said this week that it has formed a technical advisory board comprising nanopore researchers, including Deamer and Akeson, who will help the company develop its BASE sequencing technology, which combines a biological nanopore with an enzyme arrayed on a silicon chip. The company said its future sequencing technologies could involve solid-state nanopores, or may analyze single-stranded nucleic acids.

MDRNA Licenses siRNA-Delivery Technology from the University of Michigan
MDRNA has exclusively licensed intellectual property from the University of Michigan covering cationic peptides for enhanced delivery of nucleic acids, the company said this week.
The peptides covered by the UM IP are capable of forming stable siRNA nanoparticle complexes, thereby protecting the siRNA while increasing the efficiency and efficacy of the formulations, Bothell, Wash.-based MDRNA said.
In addition, the peptides can enhance endosomal release, an important step in delivering siRNAs to their site of action inside cells, the company said.
“These cationic peptides have the potential of being critical components of RNAi-based therapeutic formulations,” Michael Houston, vice president of chemistry and formulations for MDRNA, said in a statement. “We are currently using these peptides to create siRNA nanoparticles to enhance gene expression knockdown.” He added that combined with the company’s DiLA2 lipid delivery platform, the peptides improve the therapeutic potential of the company’s drug candidates.
Financial terms of the licensing agreement were not disclosed.

Aruna Biomedical Licenses Mesenchymal Cell Line from University of Georgia
Aruna Biomedical said this week that it has exclusively licensed from the University of Georgia Research Foundation technology that will enable the company to commercialize human mesenchymal cells developed at the university.
Under the terms of the agreement, Aruna has acquired an exclusive worldwide license to develop and commercialize the cells, which are derived from human embryonic stem cells.
Aruna said it will offer the academic and industrial research communities access to a highly uniform population of human mesenchymal cells grown as adherent monolayer cultures in multiple turn-key kit formats. The hMSC kits will provide a physiologically relevant and genetically stable source of research material for use in a broad range of life science research applications including developmental pathway studies, disease modeling, in vitro toxicology, compound screening, and humanized animal models, the company said.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

NCBC Awards NC State Spinout Arbovax $150K Research Loan
Arbovax, a spinout of North Carolina State University, has received a $150,000 small business research loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to support the company’s research and development program.
Arbovax is developing technology to use in producing vaccines against insect-borne viruses. The core technology was developed by NC State researchers Dennis Brown and Raquel Hernandez, and may provide improved vaccine technology targeting a portfolio of arthropod-borne diseases including dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile virus, chikungunya fever, and yellow fever.
The NCBC is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the NC General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and social benefits to the state by supporting biotechnology research, business, and education.

Fairbanks Foundation Awards IU School of Medicine $2.4M to Support CTSI
The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation of Indianapolis has awarded the Indiana University School of Medicine $2.4 million dollars over three years to support the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, IUSM said last week.
The grant supplements a five-year, $25 million grant awarded to the Indiana CTSI in May by the National Institutes of Health.
The Indiana CTSI is a collaboration between IU and Purdue University, Clarian Health, private industry, state and local government, BioCrossroads, and others to turn basic science discoveries into new medical treatments and business opportunities.

Oxford U Tech-Transfer Arm Isis Launches Assays for Obesity-Related Drug Discovery
Oxford University's technology transfer company, Isis Innovation, has launched a range of assays that can be used to identify potential drug candidates to treat obesity, the university said last week.
The assays were developed by a team led by Oxford professor Chris Schofield, and are based on the group's identification of a gene and an enzyme strongly implicated in obesity.
Researchers had previously determined that people with two copies of the "fat" FTO gene have a 70 percent higher risk of obesity than those with no copies of the gene. People carrying one copy of the FTO gene had a 30 percent higher risk of being obese compared to a person with no copies.

The FTO protein belongs to a family of enzymes known as oxygenases, which are involved in cellular processes including DNA repair, fatty acid metabolism, and post-translational modifications, Oxford said.

Isis Innovation has applied for a patent on the work and it is now available for commercial use via license. Isis said it will also set up consultancy agreements with Schofield's research group.

Morphotek Licenses mAb from NCI to Develop Prostate Cancer Rx
Morphotek, a subsidiary of Eisai Corporation of North America, announced last week that it has licensed from the National Cancer Institute the rights to a monoclonal antibody for a novel antigen identified by NCI researchers.
Researchers at the NCI have discovered several novel proteins whose expression is restricted to malignant cells. In this instance, NCI researchers have identified monoclonal antibodies capable of binding to an antigen specific for prostate cells, including normal prostate cells, prostate adenocarcinomas, and other prostate cancer cells.
Morphotek said it will apply its proprietary Morphodoma antibody discovery technology to develop human monoclonal antibodies that can bind the protein, and to test lead mAbs for anti-cancer properties. Leads that show good target binding and tumor specificity will be candidates for possible advancement to preclinical and clinical evaluation.
This is the second agreement signed this year between the NCI and Morphotek to develop new therapies for prostate cancer. In January, the company said it had signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with NCI to develop therapeutic antibodies to a cancer-associated protein identified by NCI researchers.

BN ImmunoTherapeutics Enters CRADA with NCI for Prostate Cancer Immunotherapy
BN ImmunoTherapeutics has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the National Cancer Institute to develop new immunotherapies for the treatment of prostate cancer, the company said last week.
Under the CRADA, BN ImmunoTherapeutics has rights to exclusively license intellectual property that results from this collaboration.
The company said it plans to combine this research partnership with its vaccine development program. Through a previous collaboration and license agreement with the United States Public Health Service, the company has obtained rights to intellectual property covering a prostate cancer vaccine candidate in late phase II clinical development.

Johns Hopkins to Use Axela's Protein-Detection Technology in Cardiac Trial
Johns Hopkins University researchers will use Axela’s dotLab protein-detection technology in a clinical trial to evaluate the prognostic value of certain complexes for acute myocardial infarction, Axela said last week.
Under the agreement, scientists at the Johns Hopkins NHLBI Proteomics Center will study troponin complexes as well as modifications to cardiac troponin I in patients with AMI. Troponin is a complex of three proteins that is integral to the contraction of cardiac muscle and is released into the blood during cardiac muscle necrosis and cell death.
The assay Johns Hopkins will test can detect troponin circulating in the blood of AMI patients. Axela's dotLab is an automated sampling system and fluidic controller that presents data in real time using specialized software.
Axela said Johns Hopkins has granted the company the option to negotiate exclusive rights to intellectual property the trial generates. Additional terms of the agreement were not disclosed.