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CytRx, Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, AVI BioPharma, CombiMatrix, Promega, Nastech, and Cambridge Healthtech Institute

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CytRx Announces UMMS Researcher, Dharmacon Deal Two Months Late

CytRx announced this week that its type 2 diabetes and obesity programs are the subject of a deal between Dharmacon and University of Massachusetts Medical School researcher Michael Czech, two months after the news was first made public.

Czech recently formed a collaboration with CytRx under which the company is funding work in his lab to develop RNAi-based therapies for the two diseases. In early January, Dharmacon said that it had signed a deal to design and supply siRNAs to Czech in support of these drug development efforts (see RNAi News, 1/9/2004).

CytRx’s announcement gave the company’s stock a shot in the arm, sending shares up almost 3 percent to $1.77 in mid-Thursday trading on the NASDAQ. The shares remain well-off a 52-week high of $3.74.


GNF Buys OriGene cDNA Collection

The Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation has purchased a human cDNA clone collection from OriGene Technologies, OriGene said this week.

The library contains over 20,000 non-redundant full-length human cDNA clones, covering 65 to 80 percent of all predicted human cDNAs, according to the Rockville, Md.-based company.

GNF will use the collection for in-house high-throughput research.


AVI Reports Increased Fourth-Quarter Expenses, Decreased Net Loss

Antisense drug developer AVI BioPharma reported this week a rise in fourth-quarter operating costs amid increased research and development spending.

AVI’s operating costs were $7.3 million in the quarter, up from $4.3 million in the fourth quarter 2003. R&D spending rose to $6.4 million in the fourth quarter from $3.5 million in the year-ago quarter, while general and administrative costs edged up about $114,000 to $888,440.

AVI posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $3.1 million, down from $4 million. Revenues for the quarter, generated from licenses, grants, and research contracts, fell to $135,181 from $169,206.


CombiMatrix Gets $5.9 Million DOD Grant to Develop Biowarfare Detection Technology

Acacia Research said this week that its CombiMatrix subsidiary has received a two-year Department of Defense contract, worth up to $5.9 million, to develop its microarray technology for the detection of biological threat agents.

The focus of the effort, said the company, will be the integration of the CombiMatrix technology with microelectronics and microfluidics, as well as the development of an automated system for detection biothreat agents.


Promega, EraGen Strike Gene Expression Technology Deal

Promega said this week that it has acquired the exclusive rights to distribute to the research market quantitative gene expression assays that use EraGen technology.

Promega said that it will develop and manufacture reagent systems, and EraGen will provide proprietary chemistry and software.

A branded product is expected to be launched this year, Promega said.


Nastech Reports Higher Fourth-Quarter Loss

Nastech posted this week a rise in its fourth-quarter net loss, to $5.9 million from $5.7 million.

The company’s revenues in the period fell to $911,000 from $1.8 million in the fourth quarter last year, largely due to a sharp drop in product revenue.

Nastech spent approximately $5.1 million on research and development in the fourth quarter, up from $2.9 million in the same period 2002.

As of Dec. 31, Nastech had cash and cash equivalents totaling $16.8 million.

Last month, Nastech announced that it had entered the RNAi field through the licensing of the Fire-Mello patent (see RNAi News, 2/6/2004).

During a conference call earlier this week, Nastech CSO Paul Johnson said that the company is “making early progress that may help solve” some of the delivery problems associated with RNAi-based drugs. “During the coming year, you will hear scientific presentations on the progress we are making,” he added.


CHI Schedules RNAi Conference

Cambridge Healthtech Institute has scheduled an RNAi conference for April 27-28.

The conference is entitled “RNAi for Pathway Analysis,” and is being held at the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

Talks at the conference will focus on such topics as the use of RNAi to validate older targets and find new ones, the analysis of cell division genes using genomic RNAi screening in C. elegans, and using RNAi to understand tumor neovascularization.

Details about the event can be found at http://www.healthtech.com/2004/rpa/index.ASP.

The Scan

Drug Response Variants May Be Distinct in Somatic, Germline Samples

Based on variants across 21 drug response genes, researchers in The Pharmacogenomics Journal suspect that tumor-only DNA sequences may miss drug response clues found in the germline.

Breast Cancer Risk Gene Candidates Found by Multi-Ancestry Low-Frequency Variant Analysis

Researchers narrowed in on new and known risk gene candidates with variant profiles for almost 83,500 individuals with breast cancer and 59,199 unaffected controls in Genome Medicine.

Health-Related Quality of Life Gets Boost After Microbiome-Based Treatment for Recurrent C. Diff

A secondary analysis of Phase 3 clinical trial data in JAMA Network Open suggests an investigational oral microbiome-based drug may lead to enhanced quality of life measures.

Study Follows Consequences of Early Confirmatory Trials for Accelerated Approval Indications

Time to traditional approval or withdrawal was shorter when confirmatory trials started prior to accelerated approval, though overall regulatory outcomes remained similar, a JAMA study finds.