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Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Miragen Therapeutics, Pro-Pharmaceuticals, BioCancell

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Alnylam Publishes Data on Malaria Infection, Anti-Parasitic Effect of RNAi Therapies
 
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said this week that a team of company researchers has published data showing that the gene heme oxygenase-1 is a critical host factor involved in the liver stage of malaria infection in a mouse model.
 
Additionally, “results from the studies showed that RNAi therapeutics that silence HO-1 can significantly inhibit the initial liver stage of malaria infection and completely block the resulting transmission of disease to red blood cells,” Alnylam said.
 
Also contributing to the research, which appeared in this month’s Cell Host & Microbe, were investigators from Unidade de Malaria in Portugal, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Roche Kulmbach, formerly Alnylam Europe.
 
"We are thrilled to publish these new data for this serious global health problem, as RNAi technology and, potentially RNAi therapeutics, could lead to new treatment options," Victor Kotelianski, vice president of research at Alnylam, said in a statement.
 

 
Miragen Closes $8M Series A Financing Round
 
Miragen Therapeutics, a Colorado-based startup developing microRNA drugs for cardiovascular diseases, has closed an $8 million Series A round of financing.
 
RNAi News first reported that the company was nearing completion of the financing last week (see RNAi News, 5/15/2008).
 
The Series A was co-led by founding investors Atlas Venture and Boulder Ventures, and includes additional investments from private individuals, Miragen said. The funding will be used to expand the company’s initial research and development programs.
 

 
Opko Reports Higher Q1 Loss on Increased Expenses
 
Opko Health last week reported its first-quarter financial results, posting revenues of $2.8 million versus zero revenues in the year-ago period.
 
Results for the first quarter of 2007 have been adjusted to include those of Acuity Pharmaceuticals and Froptix, which Opko acquired last year (see RNAi News, 3/29/2007).
 
The company also posted a jump in its net loss to $10.9 million, or $0.06 per share, from $249,945, or $3.87 per share, year over year.
 
Selling, general, and administrative expenses totaled $5.3 million, up from $90,000, while research and development spending was $4.4 million, down from $6.1 million.
 
As of March 31, Opko had cash and cash equivalents of $14.6 million.
 

 
Pro-Pharmaceuticals, BioCancell to Develop Cancer Therapy with RNAi Component
 
Pro-Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has formed a collaboration with Israeli cancer therapeutics firm BioCancell to develop intravenous, siRNA-based cancer treatment.
 
According to Pro-Pharmaceuticals, the alliance will combine its proprietary polysaccharide polymer Davanat, which targets galectin receptors on cancer cells, with BioCancell’s BC-819 technology, which comprises a plasmid designed to express a toxin selectively within tumor cells.
 
The companies plan to join these technologies with siRNAs to develop a combination therapy for cancer.
 
Specific terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.