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CytRx and SynthRx, Galapagos Genomics, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Nucleonics and University of California, and Sirna Therapeutics

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CytRx Closes SynthRx Deal

CytRx said this week that it has closed its deal to exclusively license its phase III sickle cell disease drug Flocor, as well as its OptiVax vaccine delivery technology, to SynthRx, a Houston-based startup firm founded and run by Robert Hunter, a CytRx co-founder and chairman of the University of Texas' department of pathology and laboratory medicine.

The assets were leftovers from the time before CytRx acquired Global Genomics and was repositioned as an RNAi therapeutics firm.

In exchange for the rights, CytRx has received a 19.9 percent stake in SynthRx, as well as an upfront fee of $228,000. CytRx also stands to receive milestones and royalties upon commercialization of any products developed under the deal.


Galapagos Genomics Begins Drug Discovery Programs for New Drug Targets

Galapagos Genomics said this week that it has identified, validated, and filed patent applications on several novel drug targets in Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.

The company said that it has initiated small molecule drug development programs based on these targets, which were selected using Galapagos' FlexSelect adenoviral-based over-expression and SilenceSelect siRNA gene knockdown technologies.


Alnylam Announces Exercise of IPO Over-Allotment Option

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said this week that the underwriters of the company's recent initial public offering of 5 million shares have exercised their over-allotment option to purchase an additional 750,000 shares of the company's common stock.

The underwriters — Banc of America Securities, Citigroup Global Markets, Piper Jaffray, and ThinkEquity Partners — purchased the stock at the IPO price of $6 per share, minus an underwriting discount of $0.42 per share.


Nucleonics Licenses RNAi Technology from UC

Nucleonics said last week that it has acquired an exclusive license from the University of California to intellectual property covering a class of promoters used for transcribing expressed-interfering RNAs.

The license, Nucleonics said, gives the sole worldwide rights to all eukaryotic RNA Pol III promoters, including human promoters, within the field of expressed-interfering RNA — which involves the delivery into cells of DNA plasmids that have been designed to express long pieces of double-stranded RNA — for human therapeutic indications.

The license, which includes sublicensing rights, covers the delivery of the promoters by either plasmid DNA or viral vectors, according to Nucleonics.


Sirna Announces Work in Huntington's Disease at BIO

Sirna Therapeutics said this week that it has announced in a company presentation at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's 2004 meeting that it is working on developing RNAi-based treatments for Huntington's disease.

The company also said that it is working with University of Iowa researcher Beverly Davidson on the project.

Sirna's interest in Huntington's disease, as well as its relationship with Davidson, was reported in RNAi News in late February (see RNAi News, 2/27/2004).

Sirna also said this week that it has licensed from the University of Iowa Research Foundation key patents covering neurological disease targets using RNAi technology, including those related to Huntington's disease.