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Benitec, CSIRO Amend RNAi Licensing Deal

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Benitec today said that it has renegotiated a licensing deal with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which the firm believes will enable it to attract needed investors.

The licensing deal between the parties, which covers the use of research and therapeutic uses of RNAi, dates back several years and was the result of a dispute over US Patent No. 6,573,099. Under that deal, which was signed in December 2003, Benitec gained the exclusive rights to the expressed RNAi technology covered by the patent for all human applications. CSIRO, meanwhile, acquired the exclusive right to the technology for all applications in animals (other than humans), plants, and insects.

In August 2006, the partners restructured the deal, which Benitec said at the time provided it with "a much lower cost base."

The licensing pact has now been amended again, and Benitec said that under the deal its "involvement in patent management has been strengthened and its obligation to pay royalties has been removed. The human field has been further clarified, but not narrowed, and CSIRO has confirmed that Benitec's rights apply to the entire scope of the patents and patent applications within this human field."

As part of the renegotiated agreement, CSIRO has received a 10 percent equity stake in Benitec. CSIRO will also have rights to research tools and research services, subject to certain exclusive rights held by Sigma-Aldrich, but it would pay Benitec 50 percent net revenues from commercialization of products in these areas.

"Given we now have resolution of these outstanding negotiations, the board intends to activate a capital raising and hopes that shareholders will support their company with continued investment moving forward," Benitec Chairman Peter Francis said in a statement.

Benitec said in October that it would need to raise money in 2010 in order to keep its operations going after a stock placement this summer generated less capital than expected.

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