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Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Ludwig Maximilian University, Sirna Therapeutics, Benitec, Genta, and Invitrogen


Alnylam Reports Publication of siRNA Data, Licensing Deal with Ludwig Maximilian University

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals announced this week the online publication in Nature Medicine of a paper identifying specific immunostimulatory motifs of short-interfering RNAs.

According to the company, the identification of these motifs enables the design of siRNAs that avoid interferon induction.

In the paper, said Alnylam, immune stimulation as measured by interferon induction was found to occur in association with some siRNA sequences but not others. “These findings were observed in vivo in association with the use of liposomal delivery of the siRNAs,” said the company.

The company also reported that it has licensed certain intellectual property related to the work of the paper’s co-author and Ludwig Maximilian University researcher Gunther Hartmann.

Sirna Reports Granting of Two RNAi Patents in UK

Sirna Therapeutics said this week that it has received notice of grant for two patents covering its fundamental RNAi technology by the United Kingdom patent office.

According to the company, the first patent — entitled “RNA Interference-Mediated Inhibition of Gene Expression Using Chemically Modified Synthetic Short Interfering Nucleic Acid” and numbered 2397818 — covers the chemical and structural modifications of short interfering RNAs necessary for the creation of viable siRNA-based therapeutics.

“The chemical modifications covered in the patent are essential for the stability, potency and duration of action of siRNA therapeutics as unmodified siRNAs degrade rapidly in vivo,” said Sirna. “It will exclude anyone in the UK from developing, manufacturing, and/or commercializing therapeutically useful chemically modified siRNAs.”

The second patent — entitled “RNA Interference-Mediated Inhibition of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor Gene Expression Using Short Interfering RNA” and numbered 2396864 — covers chemically modified siRNAs targeting a receptor of VEGF.

“The claims of this patent are not limited to any specific siRNA sequence but broadly cover any siRNA used against the entire targeted gene,” said Sirna.

Benitec Details New CEO’s Remuneration Package

Benitec’s new CEO Sara Cunningham, who was appointed to the management position following the abrupt resignation of former CEO John McKinley (see RNAi News, 1/21/2005), will receive from the company a gross salary of $190,000 annually, Benitec said in a filing with the Australian Stock Exchange this week.

In addition, Cunningham is to receive a 30-percent bonus at the end of the financial year, subject to satisfactory performance.

Genta Reports Higher Q4 Revenues, Earnings on Sanofi-Aventis Payout

Genta reported last week a fourth-quarter profit as the company recognized deferred license fees and development funding revenues stemming from the termination of a drug-development collaboration with Sanofi-Aventis (see RNAi News, 11/12/2004).

Last year, Sanofi-Aventis withdrew from a partnership to develop Genta’s antisense cancer drug Genasense, which had failed to receive a positive recommendation from a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel (see RNAi News, 5/7/2004).

Genta said that while it had been recognizing payments from Sanofi-Aventis under their collaboration over a period of 115 months, with the termination of the deal it is recognizing the balance of deferred revenues over a six-month period ending this May.

As a result, Genta’s revenues in the quarter jumped to $10 million from $2.7 million in the year-ago quarter.

Research and development costs in the quarter shrunk to $9.6 million from $28.4 million in the same period 2003, which also includes a $13.5 million write off of acquired in-process R&D associated with Genta’s acquisition of RNAi firm Salus Therapeutics (see RNAi News, 8/22/2003).

The company’s net earnings in the quarter were $14.6 million, or $0.18 per share, versus a loss of $20 million, or $0.26 per share, in the year-ago quarter. The profit, said Genta, was driven by non-cash items related to the notice of termination of its Genasense deal with Sanofi-Aventis.

As of Dec. 31, 2004, Genta had cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities totaling $42.2 million.

Invitrogen Posts Higher Q4 Organic Revenue, Income

Invitrogen reported last week a 22-percent jump in organic fourth-quarter revenue growth amid higher R&D spending and significantly stronger net income.

Total receipts for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2004, increased 26 percent to $262.2 million from $207.7 million in the year-ago quarter. The company said 4 percent of that growth was the result of favorable currency exchange rates.

Invitrogen said revenue from its BioDiscovery segment grew to $149 million in the fourth quarter, which includes 3 percent of organic growth. Around 4 percent of the increase was the result of favorable currency exchange rates, the company said. Invitrogen attributed the organic portion of the growth to “a direct result of more effective selling” as well as the release of new products.

Similarly, Invitrogen said revenue from its BioProduction business grew to $113.2 million in the fourth quarter, which includes 13 percent in organic growth. However, when factoring in favorable currency exchange rates, “continuing demand for cell culture products,” and additional revenue from BioReliance, which Invitrogen acquired last February, revenue growth in the segment increased 65 percent.

R&D spending in the period increased 25 percent to $20 million from $16 million year over year.

Net income in the quarter surged 42 percent to $30.5 million, or $.60 per basic share, from $12.6 million, or $.25 per basic share during the same period one year ago.

Invitrogen said it had around $983.4 million in cash and investments as of Dec. 31, 2004.

Looking ahead, Invitrogen reiterated a previously announced forecast to post 2005 revenue of around $1.2 billion. This would mark a 17-percent increase from the $1 billion revenue the company posted for 2004.

The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.