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Cenix BioScience and Schering, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Ambion Diagnostics and The Blood Center, Sigma-Aldrich and JRH Biosciences, and CombiMatrix


Cenix, Schering Ink Research Service Agreements

Cenix BioScience said this week that it has signed research service agreements with German pharmaceutical firm Schering to accelerate ongoing target discovery and validation efforts in two undisclosed human disease programs.

The deal expands on two projects begun last year under which Cenix used its technology to conduct large-scale target screening work for Schering, Cenix’s director of discovery programs, Birte Sonnichsen, told RNAi News.

Under the new arrangement, Cenix will use its proprietary high-throughput RNAi and high-content phenotype analyses technologies to validate genes Schering is investigating as small-molecule drug targets.

Additional terms were not disclosed.

Isis Posts Higher Q4 Loss on Increased Expenses

Isis Pharmaceuticals reported this week its fourth-quarter financial results, posting a higher net loss amid increased operating expenses.

The company’s revenues for the quarter rose to $11.4 million from about $10 million in the fourth quarter a year earlier. This growth, however, was more than offset by a jump in operating costs to $63.2 million from $31.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2003.

Research and development spending fell slightly in the fourth quarter to $28 million from $29 million, but the company recorded $32.4 million in restructuring charges related primarily to write downs of tangible and intangible assets, such as equipment and patents, for areas that are non-essential to the company’s current focus.

Additional restructuring charges, including those associated with employee termination costs and the closure of Isis’ Singapore laboratory, will be incurred in the first quarter of 2005.

Isis’ net loss in the fourth quarter $57.5 million, or $1 per share, versus a year-ago loss of $25.6 million, or $0.46 per share. The higher losses partly reflect a loss on investments related to decreases in the market value of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals’ stock in 2004, which Isis acquired through its R&D collaboration with the RNAi company.

Isis had cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments totaling $103.9 million as of Dec. 31, 2004.

Alnylam Presents Preclinical AMD Data at Macular Society Meeting

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said last week that it presented in vivo efficacy data on the use of RNAi to silence the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in rat models of age-related macular degeneration.

According to the company, experiments conducted in conjunction with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary showed that an optimized RNAi-based drug candidate led to reduced pathologic vascular leakage, as detected by angiography.

These data, said the company, were presented at the Macular Society meeting held in Key Biscayne, Fla.

“In preliminary pre-clinical studies performed in a rat model of AMD with laser-induced choroidal neovascularization, the [RNAi agent] reduced pathological vascular leakage compared with placebo control,” Alnylam said in a statement. “Additional ongoing pre-clinical studies aim to confirm this finding, determine the optimal drug dose and delivery regimen, and compare Alnylam’s lead therapeutic to other drugs used to treat the wet form of AMD.”

Ambion Diagnostics Places Cystic Fibrosis Gene Test with Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin

Ambion Diagnostics, a division of Ambion, said this week that the Signature CF 2.0 ASR, a molecular genetic test used to detect mutations in the gene associated with cystic fibrosis, has been adopted for use by The Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin.

According to Ambion Diagnostics, the test has been adapted for a bead array platform and can be used to identify 25 mutations and six variants of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene. These mutations represent the most common genetic mutations in North America and include the mutations recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics, the company added.

Specific terms of Ambion Diagnostic’s arrangement with The Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin were not disclosed.

Sigma-Aldrich Closes Acquisition of JRH

Sigma-Aldrich announced this week the completion of its previously announced acquisition of JRH Biosciences.

The acquisition, which was originally announced on Jan. 18, is worth $370 million, and follows Sigma-Aldrich’s recent announcement of its plans to purchase DNA and RNA maker Proligo from Degussa (see RNAi News, 2/18/2005).

JRH supplies cell culture and sera products to the biopharmaceutical industry. It had approximately $150 million in sales in 2004, and was expecting 10-percent growth in sales in 2005, Sigma said.

Ten months of JRH’s operating results will be added to Sigma-Aldrich’s 2005 performance, Sigma said.

CombiMatrix Reports Higher Revenues, Increased Net Loss in Q4

CombiMatrix reported last week that fourth-quarter revenues jumped around $470,000, but that net loss increased by almost half.

CombiMatrix had $522,000 in total revenues for fourth quarter, compared to revenues of $53,000 for the same quarter last year, while increasing its net loss 44 percent to $1.6 million from $1.1 million in the year-ago period.

The life-sciences unit of Acacia Research had research and development expenses of $1.4 million for the quarter, down 27 percent from $1.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2003.

CombiMatrix said it had around $23.7 million in cash, equivalents, and short-term investments as of Dec. 31, 2004.


The Scan

Study Finds Few FDA Post-Market Regulatory Actions Backed by Research, Public Assessments

A Yale University-led team examines in The BMJ safety signals from the US FDA Adverse Event Reporting System and whether they led to regulatory action.

Duke University Team Develops Programmable RNA Tool for Cell Editing

Researchers have developed an RNA-based editing tool that can target specific cells, as they describe in Nature.

Novel Gene Editing Approach for Treating Cystic Fibrosis

Researchers in Science Advances report on their development of a non-nuclease-based gene editing approach they hope to apply to treat cystic fibrosis.

Study Tracks Responses in Patients Pursuing Polygenic Risk Score Profiling

Using interviews, researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics qualitatively assess individuals' motivations for, and experiences with, direct-to-consumer polygenic risk score testing.