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Benitec, GeneGo and RNAi Co., CytRx, Dharmacon and Genentech, BioImage and RNAx, B-Bridge International and German Resource Center for Genome Research, AVI BioPharma, and Becton Dickinson


Benitec Schedules Conference Call Following Management Shakeup

Benitec announced this week that it has scheduled a web-based conference call for Sunday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. EST to discuss the company’s “corporate goals and clinical programs.”

The scheduling of the call comes on the heels of the resignation of Benitec’s Chairman and CEO John McKinley, who was replaced as chief executive by COO Sara Cunningham. As reported by RNAi News, Cunningham will host the call in order to bolster investor confidence (see RNAi News, 1/21/2005). Raymond Whitten, a Benitec director, has taken over as the company’s chairman.

The conference call will be available on Benitec’s website, and will be archived there, according to Cunningham.

GeneGo Licenses Bioinformatics Technology to RNAi Co.

Bioinformatic firm GeneGo said this week that it has signed a deal to provide its MetaCore pathway analysis database and software to Japan’s RNAi Co. for use in its RNAi-based drug-discovery efforts.

Specific terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

“We welcome [RNAi Co.] as our first Japanese customer,” Tatiana Nikolskaya, president and CSO of GeneGo, said in a statement. “Their findings are very synergistic with pathway analysis of complex diseases we are working on. We consider this agreement as the first step in long term collaboration in the intersection of these … technologies.”

CytRx Privately Places $21.3 Million in Stock

CytRx said last week that it has signed a definitive agreement to privately place about 17.3 million shares of its common stock with institutional investors, with gross proceeds of the placement of about $21.3 million.

The placement values CytRx’s shares at approximately $1.23 each. On Wednesday morning, shares of CytRx were trading at $1.48 on the Nasdaq exchange.

In connection with the sale, CytRx said it will also issue warrants for the purchase of roughly 8.7 million additional shares of its common stock at an exercise price of $2 per share.

“The completion of this financing will allow CytRx to focus on our planned phase II clinical trial for [arimoclomol as a treatment for] ALS in the second quarter of 2005, as well as to expand our small molecule, RNAi, and DNA vaccine programs in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and viral diseases” Steven Kriegsman, CytRx’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Dharmacon Inks RNAi Products Deal with Genentech

Dharmacon said last week that it has signed a deal to provide Genentech with a range of siRNA reagents including its Human Druggable Genome library.

Specific terms of the arrangement, including the financials, were not disclosed.

BioImage, RNAx Ink Co-Marketing Deal

BioImage and RNAx announced this week a co-marketing agreement combining the companies’ core technologies.

Under the terms of the arrangement, RNAx will supply BioImage with RNAi technology complementary to its redistribution assay technology, and vice versa. The deal is designed to provide each company’s customers with both technologies from a single source, the firms said.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

B-Bridge Inks Deal to Handle Distribution in North America, Japan for RZPD

B-Bridge International said last week that it has signed an agreement under which it will distribute products and services from the German Resource Center for Genome Research (RZPD) in North American and Japan.

Under the deal, North American and Japanese researchers can order RZPD’s offerings through B-Bridge, which will also provide local support.

RZPD products include clones and clone collections, genomic and cDNA libraries, robotic services, protein-profiling services, DNA and protein arrays, and esiRNA-related products.

RZPD, based in Berlin, is a non-profit center for genomic and proteomic tools and services.

AVI Signs Deal to Place $24 Million in Stock, Updates Infectious Disease Programs

AVI BioPharma said last week that it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell 8 million shares of its common stock at $3 per share to several institutional investors. Gross proceeds of the sale will be $24 million.

As of Wednesday morning, shares of AVI were trading at $2.74 on the Nasdaq exchange.

AVI said the proceeds of the financing will be used to fund its operations and ongoing clinical programs.

This week AVI also provided an update to its infectious disease program, which is using antisense drugs to target single-stranded RNA viruses.

According to the company, it has completed cell culture studies, as well as preclinical toxicology and pharmacokinetic analyses, for its West Nile virus therapy AVI-4020. An investigational new drug application for the compound has been filed with US regulators, AVI said.

AVI also said that it has completed pharmacokinetic and toxicology studies for its hepatitis C virus antisense drug AVI-4065, and that toxicology studies in rats and primates are in progress. An IND for AVI-4065 is expected to be filed this year, the company said.

BD’s Q1 Revenues Rise on Biosciences, Medical Segment Revenue Growth

Led by double-digit revenue growth in its biosciences and medical segments, Becton Dickinson this week reported $1.3 billion in the first quarter, up 9 percent over $1.2 billion in revenues for the year-ago period.

The company’s biosciences segment had revenues of $181 million, up 15 percent over the year-ago period’s $157 million. The rise in revenues was attributed primarily to sales of the company’s FacsCanto analyzer, and the FacsAria cell sorter, and sales of flow cytometry reagents to the clinical and research markets.

BD Medical had sales of $694 million, up 11 percent over the year-ago period’s $627 million in revenue, while BD Diagnostics had sales of $414 million, up 3 percent over the previous period’s $401 million in sales.

R&D expenditures were up 6.5 percent to $62 million for the period, compared to $58 million last year.

BD’s operating income for the quarter was $250 million, up 48 percent over $168 million in Q1 FY ‘04.

BD has said that it is selling its Clontech unit, with a deal expected to close in the second or third quarter of this year.


The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.