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Alnylam, University of Edinburgh, Sigma-Aldrich, Inex Pharmaceuticals

Alnylam Wins $23M NIH Contract, $1.1M from Congress for RNAi Drug Development
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said last week that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has awarded the company a $23 million, four-year contract to develop a broad spectrum of RNAi antivirals against hemorrhagic fever virus, including the Ebola virus.
With the contract, the company said it is establishing Alnylam Biodefense, an initiative focused on developing RNAi therapeutics against bioterrorism targets.
Alnylam also said this week that the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2007, passed by Congress last week, includes $1.1 million of funding specifically earmarked to support the company’s ongoing development of RNAi therapeutics.
"We believe this additional funding recognizes the potential of RNAi therapeutics as a broad platform technology that could enable the rapid and reproducible generation of pharmacological countermeasures against bioterrorism threats,” Alnylam COO Barry Greene said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Alnylam announced it had signed a partnership agreement with the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to collaborate on the discovery of RNAi-based drugs for biodefense (see RNAi News, 4/13/2006).
A few months before that, the company said it had received a $240,000 grant from the US Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to support its development of an RNAi treatment for pandemic influenza (see RNAi News, 12/16/2005).
“With this funding [under the Appropriations Act] and additional funding from the National Institutes of Health for the development of an RNAi therapeutic targeting the Ebola virus, we are advancing our Alnylam Biodefense efforts to meet bio-preparedness needs for US military personnel and the nation,” Greene added.

University of Edinburgh Joins Sigma-Aldrich’s RNAi Partnership Program
Sigma-Aldrich said this week that the University of Edinburgh has joined the company’s RNAi Partnership Program.
The program was established earlier this year as part of Sigma-Aldrich’s bid to strengthen ties between the company and academic users of its RNAi and other functional genomics products, as well as boost the company's visibility in the RNAi space (see RNAi News, 4/27/2006).
Participants in the program will get early access to new Sigma-Aldrich technologies, and will have a dedicated support team to assist with products from the company's functional genomics product portfolio.
Other members of the RNAi Partnership Program include Rutgers University; the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey; the Wistar Institute; Tufts University; Washington University of Saint Louis; and Moore's Cancer Center, UCSD.

Inex Says Spin Out Planned for End of October
Inex Pharmaceuticals said last week that it now aims to complete the spin out of all its assets into Tekmira Pharmaceuticals by the end of this month.
Last month, the company’s shareholders voted to approve the spin out, which includes all of Inex’s technology, products, cash, and partnerships.
The spin out is subject to a number of conditions, including the transfer of litigation between Inex and former subsidiary Protiva Biotherapeutics to Tekmira. Protiva has sued Inex in the US and Canada to prevent the spin out (see RNAi News, 9/14/2006).
Inex also said that it plans to ask the British Columbia Supreme Court to transfer the ongoing legal dispute with Protiva to Tekmira, as well as to approve the spin-out plan.

The Scan

Vaccine Update Recommended

A US Food and Drug Administration panel recommends booster vaccines be updated to target Omicron, CNBC reports.

US to Make More Vaccines for Monkeypox Available

The US is to make nearly 300,000 vaccine doses available in the coming weeks to stem the spread of human monkeypox virus, according to NPR.

Sentence Appealed

The Associated Press reports that Swedish prosecutors are appealing the sentence given to a surgeon once lauded for transplanting synthetic tracheas but then convicted of causing bodily harm.

Genome Biology Papers on COVID-19 Effector Genes, Virtual ChIP-seq, scDART

In Genome Biology this week: proposed COVID-19 effector genes, method to predict transcription factor binding patterns, and more.