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Cenix and Bayer, Molecula, Galapagos and Bayer, SMi Group, and Isis

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Cenix Inks RNAi-Based Target Identification, Validation Deal with Bayer

Cenix BioScience said this week that it has signed a deal to use its genome-wide siRNA library to help Bayer HealthCare screen all known human druggable genes in an effort to identify and validate new drug targets.

Cenix said that, using cell-based assays developed in partnership with Bayer researchers, it expects to screen more than 6,000 genes in less than nine months.

Under the terms of the deal, Cenix will receive upfront fees and research funding, and is eligible for milestone payments. Bayer will have an option to obtain all rights to new intellectual property generated by the effort.

Additional terms were not disclosed.

“Having launched these [high-throughput] RNAi research offerings only this summer after years of careful R&D, we have been particularly gratified by the overwhelming market interest, of which this agreement represents a first, important milestone,” Chris Echeverri, CEO and CSO of Cenix, said in a statement.

While Cenix had at one point been planning on entering the RNAi-based therapeutics field, in April the company decided to refocus just on offering RNAi reagent design, target discovery, and target validation services.


Molecula Takes License to Fire-Mello Patent

CalbaTech said this week that its subsidiary Molecula, which sells oligos and reagents, has taken a non-exclusive license from the Carnegie Institution of Washington to the Fire-Mello RNAi patent.

The patent — number 6,506,559 — was invented by Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, and covers the process of introducing a double-stranded piece of RNA into a cell ex vivo or in vivo in order to trigger a gene silencing effect. The patent does not cover the use of dsRNA in mammals, but is widely considered to be a fundamental piece of RNAi intellectual property.

The patent is widely available from Carnegie and the University of Massachusetts Medical School for a $35,000 upfront fee, the same in annual payments, and as much as $150,000 in milestones.


Galapagos Signs Target Identification, Validation Deal with Bayer

Galapagos Genomics said this week that it has signed a deal to discover and validate drug targets using its siRNA technology with Bayer HealthCare.

Under the arrangement, Galapagos will use its SilenceSelect collection of adenoviruses with siRNA-based knockdown sequences and FleXSelect collection of adenoviruses with full length genes to find drug targets in disease areas of interest to Bayer.

Bayer has the exclusive right to select validated targets for drug development in return for upfront fees, research funding, and milestones.

Additional terms were not disclosed.

This Bayer deal is the third target identification and validation deal that Galapagos has signed in just about a month; in November, the company announced partnerships with Boehringer Ingelheim and Wyeth. (See RNAi News, 11/14/2003).


SMi Group Schedules Antisense, siRNA Conference

SMi Group has scheduled its Antisense & siRNA Technologies conference for Feb. 16-17.

The event is to take place at The Hatton in London, and will feature speakers from Hybridon, Genta, Eli Lilly, Qiagen, Isis, AVI BioPharma, Alnylam, and Lorus Therapeutics.

The conference will also include two half-day executive briefings covering US biotechnology patent law and applications of siRNA-induced gene silencing.

Details about the event can be found at http://www.smi-online.co.uk/events/overview.asp?is=4&ref=1363.


Isis Retires $32 Million in Partner Debt

Isis Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has retired roughly $32 million in partner debt using a new, five-year, 4 percent term loan.

The convertible partner debt was due from 2003 to 2005 and carried interest rates ranging from 8.5 percent to 12 percent, said Isis.

The retired partner debt was held by Boehringer Ingelheim and Elan.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.