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Four Backers Support New UK Biotech Firm That Targets RNA Therapies

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LONDON--RiboTargets, a new biotech company here that was formed by a research team at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in order to research, develop, and manufacture a new generation of pharmaceuticals that target RNA for the treatment of infectious diseases, has received funding from four private equity funds. Investors include Apax Partners, whose stake is valued at £4 million; 3i, with a £1.75 million stake; Advent, which is investing £1 million; and Kargoe, with a £0.25 million share.

The new company will specifically take aim at such diseases as HIV and hepatitis C, according to officials, who claim RiboTargets is the first drug discovery venture to focus exclusively on RNA targets. The firm also plans to develop a new generation of drugs for treating cancer and autoimmune diseases, they said.

According to Simon Sturge, the new company's CEO, "We intend to establish a broad patent position and the proceeds of this private placement will enable us to develop at least one compound for clinical trials before further funding is required." Sturge was previously CEO of Celltech Biologics. Paul Haycock, a director of Apax Partners, added, "We believe that the company's new and unique technology to focus on RNA targets will have broad therapeutic applications."

RiboTargets was founded by Jonathan Karn, an MRC scientist. It was also announced that another MRC scientist, Gabriel Varani, will serve as a "key member" of the firm's Scientific Advisory Board. RiboTargets has an exclusive license for commercial access to a specialized MRC technology required for the analysis of RNA-drug complexes. The license was granted in exchange for equity in RiboTargets.

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