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Artemis Pharmaceuticals and Merck, Qiagen, Protein Design Labs and Cyntellect, MWG Biotech, and Benitec and Artemis Pharmaceuticals


Artemis Signs Deal to Create Knockdown Mice for Merck

Artemis Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has signed a deal to develop RNAi-modified genetically engineered mice for use by Merck for in vivo functional analysis of selected disease-related genes.

Under the deal, Merck will provide shRNA sequences that correspond to genes that may play a role in human diseases. Artemis will use the shRNAs and its RNAi technology to generate mice in which the genes are down regulated.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Qiagen Posts Higher Q3 Earnings

Qiagen reported this week a 7 percent increase in earnings, despite unchanged revenues during its third quarter.

Qiagen’s net sales in the quarter ended Sept. 30 were unchanged at $90.4 million, from the same figure in the third quarter of 2003. The company said that Q3 2003 revenues included $13.1 million in revenues related to the synthetic DNA business that Qiagen sold in the second quarter of 2004.

Qiagen’s net income for the third quarter of 2004 increased to $12.6 million, or $0.09 per share, from $11.8 million, or $0.08 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Qiagen said that the Q3 2004 income figures include expenses related to the relocation of its American marketing and sales operations from Valencia, Calif., to Germantown, Md., as well as expenses related to its recent acquisition of key assets of Molecular Staging.

Excluding the effects of these charges, net income increased 22 percent to $14.4 million for Q3 2004, from $11.8 million in the year-ago period, Qiagen said.

Qiagen’s R&D spending was flat year over year, at $7.6 million for the third quarter of 2004, compared to $7.5 million for the year-ago period.

Qiagen had $143 million in cash and cash equivalents as of Sept. 30.

Protein Design Labs to Use Cyntellect Technology

Protein Design Labs will use Cyntellect’s Cell Xpress Laser Enabled Analysis and Processing service, the companies said this week.

Cyntellect’s LEAP platform, which is part of the company’s Cell Xpress service, was designed to enable the high-throughput imaging and measurement of protein secretions in situ on an individual cell basis.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The news comes one month after Cyntellect received a roughly $1.5 million grant to continue developing RNA interference applications on the LEAP platform (see RNAi News, 9/17/2004).

Specifically, the money will help the privately held company develop its LEAP-enabled LaserFect technology for low-toxicity delivery of siRNA into cells “that are typically refractory to standard transfection techniques.”

MWG Biotech To Cut Jobs, Posts

MWG Biotech will slash around 60 percent of its workforce in a further effort to reduce costs, the company said this week.

The move comes just weeks after MWG said it would sell its microarray and lab-automation businesses in order to focus on genomic synthesis, synthetic nucleic acids, oligonucleotide production, and DNA sequencing.

According to MWG, it will “massively reduce its workforce” from 351 to 140 “amid a streamlining of administration and sales structures.” The company noted that “service for all international customers remains unaffected.”

MWG announced the layoffs along with a drop in revenues for the first nine months of 2004, which fell to to €26.5 million ($33.9 million) from €32.6 million the year before. The company said its DNA sequencing and nucleic acids product businesses contributed €17.9 million in revenues during the first nine months of this year, while the microarrays and lab automation operations generated €8.5 million.

For the first nine months of 2004, MWG posted €6.8 million in losses before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

MWG said that for the full-year 2004, it anticipates revenues to total €31 million, with a loss before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, and restructuring costs of €9.4 million.

Benitec Licenses RNAi Technology to Artemis

Benitec said this week that it has granted a non-exclusive license to its DNA-directed RNAi technology to Artemis Pharmaceuticals.

Under the terms of the deal, Artemis may use the technology to develop its proprietary transgenic rat and mouse models.

In exchange, Benitec is to receive an upfront fee, as well as royalties. Additional terms of the arrangment were not disclosed.

“This is our first European license and underpins the increased awareness of the commercial capability offered by our technology,” Benitec Chairman and CEO John McKinley said in a statement.


The Scan

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.

Study Presents New Insights Into How Cancer Cells Overcome Telomere Shortening

Researchers report in Nucleic Acids Research that ATRX-deficient cancer cells have increased activity of the alternative lengthening of telomeres pathway.

Researchers Link Telomere Length With Alzheimer's Disease

Within UK Biobank participants, longer leukocyte telomere length is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, according to a new study in PLOS One.

Nucleotide Base Detected on Near-Earth Asteroid

Among other intriguing compounds, researchers find the nucleotide uracil, a component of RNA sequences, in samples collected from the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, as they report in Nature Communications.