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Atugen, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, CytoGenix (CSIRO), and AVI BioPharma


Atugen Raises €5 Million in Third Round of Finaning

Atugen, which recently entered the RNAi therapeutics field, said this week that it has raised €5 million (about $6.1 million) in its third round of financing.

The company said that the financing round was managed by WestLBPanmure, and was co-led by Novartis Venture Fund and funds advised by Apax Partners. Also joining in the financing was current Atugen investor MPM Capital.

"We are very pleased with our investment in atugen since we believe atugen has made some impressive advances in the scope of gene silencing,”Rudolf Gygax, managing director of the Novartis venture Fund, said in a statement. “Their recent developments in stabilizing siRNA molecules could well take this technology into the therapeutic arena."

In February, Atugen announced that it had expanded its focus beyond drug discovery and target validation to include RNAi-based therapeutics. At the time, CSO Klaus Giese told RNAi News that the company was in the midst of trying to raise between $5 million and $8 million, funds that would allow it to survive for about two years (see RNAi News, 2/13/2004).

CSIRO Schedules Livestock Conference Featuring RNAi Discussions

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization said this week that it is hosting a conference on livestock sciences that will include discussions of RNAi.

The conference, called “Horizons in Livestock Sciences,” will feature speakers including CSIRO researcher Peter Waterhouse, Cenix BioScience CEO Christophe Echeverri, and John Rossi from the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope Cancer Center.

John Mattick, director of the Institute of Molecular Bioscience, is scheduled to present the conference’s opening address.

The conference is being held on Sept. 12-15 at the Gold Coast International Hotel in Queensland, Australia.

Additional information about the event, including registration details and a conference program, can be found at

CytoGenix Inks Deal to Evaluate Gene Silencing Technology with LSU Researchers

CytoGenix said this week that it has signed an agreement to collaborate with researchers from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center on preclinical experiments using the company’s single-strand DNA expression vector technology to silence a gene associated with malignant transformation in tumor cells.

“The combination of our delivery technology and CytoGenix’ gene silencing technology has great potential for treating malignancies particularly in breast, head, neck and prostate tumors,” LSU researcher Michael Mathis said in a statement. “Our primary goal is to develop effective cancer gene therapies for our patients.”

AVI Says Antisense Drug Slows Breakdown of Anesthetic in Early-Stage Human Trial

AVI BioPharma said this week that a clinical trial has shown that its oral antisense drug AVI-4557 is capable of inhibiting the metabolic breakdown of the anesthetic midazolam.

According to the company, the study evaluated a 10mg dose of midazolam followed by five daily oral doses of AVI-4557. On the sixth day, another dose of midazolam was given.

AVI said that its antisense drug targets the enzyme cytochrome P450 3A4, a liver enzyme responsible for the metabolism or breakdown of approximately half of currently marketed drugs.

The primary endpoint of the study was a reduced rate of midazolam metabolism as demonstrated by a decrease in midazolam clearance and an increase in midazolam maximal blood concentration.

AVI said that the decrease in midazolam in those treated with the antisense drug was statistically significant, as was the increase in the drug’s concentration in the blood.

“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of efficacy in a human clinical study with an oral antisense compound,” AVI CEO Denis Burger said in a statement.

“Our goal is to combine AVI-4557 with existing drugs that would benefit from reduced dosing levels, thereby potentially limiting toxicity without compromising efficacy,” he added.

The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.