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Benitec, Promega and Merck, Atugen and Eisai London Research Laboratories, Artemis Pharmaceuticals and Biovitrum, and Abbott Laboratories and Celera Genomics


Benitec and Promega said this week that they have granted Merck a non-exclusive global license to use Benitec’s DNA-directed RNAi technology in research activities.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed, but Benitec said that the deal does not include downstream commercial rights for therapeutic development. “This is an important milestone,” Benitec’s chairman and CEO John McKinley said in a statement.

“This lends support to Benitec’s leading position in ddRNAi, and while our longer-term goal is to develop RNAi-based therapeutics … we will continue to support our in-house programs by earning the maximum possible revenue from this important technology.”

In April 2003, Benitec granted Promega the worldwide rights, including sublicensing rights, to ddRNAi in areas outside human therapeutics. The Merck deal comes less than a month after Promega announced that it had licensed the technology to Integrated DNA Technologies for use in making and selling oligonucleotides (see RNAi News, 6/18/2004).

Atugen Strikes Contract Research Deal with Eisai Subsidiary

Atugen said this week that it has signed a contract research agreement with Eisai London Research Laboratories, a subsidiary of Japanese drug maker Eisai Co.

Under the deal, Atugen will use its gene-silencing technologies to validate and optimize undisclosed drug targets provided by Eisai. Additional terms, including the financials, were not disclosed.

“Atugen is very pleased to be announcing its first research agreement with Eisai, which has major drug discovery achievements in the areas of neurobiology and gastroenterology,” Andre Lochter, Atugen’s director of business development, said in a statement.

“We consider that Atugen’s gene silencing and RNAi research tools will strengthen our drug discovery process and foster ELL’s competitive position within the field,” Yukio Nishizawa, research director of ELL, added.

Artemis, Biovitrum Ink Transgenic Mouse Deal

Artemis Pharmaceuticals has signed a deal to generate knockdown transgenic mice using short-hairpin RNAs for use by Biovitrum in certain research programs.

Under the deal, Biovitrum will provide selected shRNA sequences that correspond to genes that may play a central role in undisclosed human diseases. Artemis will use the sequences to generate the transgenic mice. Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

“The production of RNAi gene knockdown mice by Artemis has the potential to provide rapid in vivo target validation,” Nigel Levens, head of biology at Biovitrum, said in a statement. “This technology will help in early stage project selection and support our efforts as a major player in metabolic diseases research.”

Abbott, Celera Genomics sign Cancer Deal

Abbott Laboratories and Celera Genomics announced this week a partnership to develop therapeutic antibodies and small-molecule drugs against over-expressed cell-surface proteins associated with cancer.

Celera will contribute a subset of the cell-surface antigens it has identified and validated in its ongoing proteomic studies in a number of solid tumors, the company said. Abbott will screen the antigens to identify those with potential for subsequent preclinical development.


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