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Arrowhead, Axolabs Ink RNAi Therapeutics Services Deal

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Arrowhead Research announced this week that it has signed a RNAi services agreement with Germany's Axolabs, bringing together the US and European halves of Roche's former RNA therapeutics operations that were divested by the biopharmaceutical giant in 2010.

Under the terms of the deal, Axolabs will provide Arrowhead and its partners with oligonucleotide optimization, synthesis, and analytic services. These specifically include siRNA design; lead identification, optimization, and characterization; and siRNA synthesis.

Additional terms were not disclosed.

Through the deal, Arrowhead and Axolabs are reconnecting the therapeutics and research operations of Roche's one-time RNA drugs unit, which was originally established in 2007 when it paid $274 million to Alnylam Pharmaceuticals for non-exclusive access to its technology and patent portfolio and $15 million for its Kulmbach, Germany, site (GSN 7/12/2007).

Roche upped its ante in RNA-based medicines the next year with its $125 million purchase of Madison, Wisc.-based Mirus Bio and its polymer-based dynamic polyconjugate siRNA delivery technology (GSN 7/24/2008).

However, economic pressured prompted Roche to shut down its RNAi research operations in 2010 (GSN 11/18/2010). As part of that process, it began searching for buyers for its RNAi-related intellectual property and technologies.

Late last year, Arrowhead stepped up to buy all of Roche's RNA therapeutics assets, including its 40-person site in Madison in exchange for a 10 percent equity stake and the promise of million-dollar late-stage milestones (GSN 10/27/2011).

Shortly thereafter, Axolabs, which was founded by the same team that established Alnylam's German operations, bought Roche's Kulmbach facility and equipment (GSN 12/1/2011).

At the time, Axolabs' general manager Roland Kreutzer told Gene Silencing News that he aimed to position his company as a go-to provider of research services for nucleic acid drug development.

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