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Cepheid, Actigenics, Sirna Therapeutics, AVI BioPharma, Qiagen, Invitrogen

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Cepheid Quietly Acquires miRNA Firm Actigenics
 
Molecular diagnostics firm Cepheid this week quietly announced that it has acquired Actigenics, a French microRNA drugs and diagnostics firm.
 
Cepheid reported the acquisition when it announced its second-quarter financial results.
 
“Actigenics has one of the largest portfolios of validated microRNAs in the world having discovered 88 novel microRNAs to date,” Cepheid CEO John Bishop said in a statement. “By using their proprietary search algorithms, several hundred more novel microRNA candidates have been identified and are being validated in their discovery pipeline.
 
“We believe these microRNAs may potentially provide the basis for a broad range of Cepheid proprietary markers for cancer-specific markers, infection-specific markers, inflammation-specific markers, and surrogate markers of complex regulatory mechanisms,” he said.
 
Bishop noted that Cepheid plans to out-license therapeutic applications of Actigenics’ miRNAs. “However, we plan on maintaining the opportunity to develop diagnostic tests associated with those therapeutic applications,” he said.
 
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
 

 
Final Phase I Data Shows Sirna AMD Drug Safe, Efficacious
 
Sirna Therapeutics this week released the final results from a phase I study of its RNAi-based treatment for age-related macular degeneration, reporting that the drug appeared safe and well-tolerated while demonstrating efficacy.
 
The study evaluated the safety, tolerability, and biological effect of single-ascending doses of the RNAi drug, Sirna-027, in patients with AMD. Twenty-six patients with active disease were enrolled to receive a single intravitreal injection of Sirna-027 ranging from 100 to 1,600 micrograms.
 
According to Sirna, all 26 patients showed visual acuity stabilization eight weeks after a single injection of Sirna-027. Additionally, five patients “experienced clinically significant improvement in visual acuity, indicated by an increase of at least three lines on an eye chart.”
 
Three months after treatment, 24 of the 26 patients showed visual acuity stabilization, with four patients experiencing clinically significant improvement in visual acuity. Two patients experienced a reduction in visual acuity of three lines or more on an eye chart.
 
Under an October 2005 deal, Allergan acquired the rights to Sirna-027 and will be responsible for all additional clinical development and commercialization activities for the drug (see RNAi News, 10/7/2005). Sirna said that Allergan is slated to begin phase II testing of the AMD drug before the end of the year.
 

 
AVI Publishes Preclinical Data on Antisense-Based Antibiotics
 
AVI BioPharma this week announced the publication of preclinical data showing that a new class of antisense-based antibiotics, termed NeuBiotics, can be delivered and silence target genes in bacteria.
The data were published in the August issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in a paper entitled "Gene-Specific Effects of Antisense Phosphorodiamidate Morpholino Oligomer-Peptide Conjugates on Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium in Pure Culture and in Tissue Culture.”
 
According to the company, NeuBiotics are “antisense antibiotics composed of relatively short … antisense polymers covalently linked to bacteria-permeating peptides. The antisense oligomers target and disable essential bacterial gene function, and the delivery peptides improve the antisense uptake into bacterial cells.”
 
Patrick Iversen, senior vice president of research and development at AVI, said in a statement that the preclinical data put the company “in a strong position to develop NeuBiotics for a variety of microbial infections."
 

 
Qiagen Posts 10-Percent Q2 Organic Revenue Growth as Profit Rises 3 Percent
 
Qiagen this week said second-quarter revenues rose 13 percent, 10 percent of which was organic growth, while the company’s net profit increased 3 percent.
 
Receipts for the second quarter increased to $113.2 million from $100.4 million in the same quarter last year. Approximately 10 percent of this was organic and acquisitions contributed about 3 percent, Qiagen said. 
 
The company said that these results were driven by a 14-percent spike in its consumables business, 11 percent of which was organic. Organic instrumentation sales increased 2 percent.
 
Sales in North America grew approximately 9 percent and represented about 45 percent of Qiagen’s overall business, while European sales grew 14 percent and represented about 45 percent of overall sales. Qiagen said that net sales in Asia grew by 30 percent, driven primarily by strong demand in China.
 
The company spent about $10.2 million on R&D in the second quarter, up 17 percent from $8.7 million in the comparable period last year.
 
Qiagen’s net income for the second quarter rose slightly to $14.2 million from $13.8 million in Q2 2005.
 
As of June 30, Qiagen had approximately $473 million in cash and cash equivalents.
 

 
Invitrogen Posts 2-Percent Q2 Revenue Increase, Missing Estimates; Cuts '06 Outlook
 
Invitrogen last week said that total second-quarter revenue inched up 2 percent as net income jumped 32 percent.
 
The company also cut its full-year 2006 revenue projection but announced a $500 million share repurchase program.
  
Receipts for the three months ended June 30 increased to $313 million from $306 million year over year. Revenues were impacted by a 1-percent decline in organic growth and positive results from recent acquisitions.
 
According to Marketwatch.com, analysts polled by Thomson First call projected Invitrogen to post $320 million in revenue.
 
Receipts from its BioDiscovery unit increased 3 percent while BioProduction declined 8 percent. Declining sera revenue affected BioProduction’s revenues, but healthy demand for cell culture research media partially offset the decline, Invitrogen said.
 
R&D costs increased almost 10 percent to $26.6 million from $24 million from the comparable quarter a year ago.
 
The company said net income increased to $19.7 million from $14.9 million during the comparable period last year.
 
Invitrogen expects to have approximately $1 billion in cash by year-end, making the three-year buyback program feasible, CFO David Hoffmeister said on a conference call. He said the company will “continue to evaluate potential acquisitions.”
 
Invitrogen said it had around $733 million in cash and investments as of June 30.

Invitrogen lowered its revenue outlook for 2006, citing "lower than expected growth from some of the acquisitions," mainly due to site consolidations, as well as uncertainty about sales of its sera products.

 
The company now expects revenue of $1.26 billion to $1.30 billion, down from the $1.30 billion to $1.35 billion it projected in April, Hoffmeister said.

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.