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Dharmacon Partners with Lentigen to Develop, Market Lentiviral Reagents for shRNA Delivery

Dharmacon and Lentigen announced last week that they have signed a multi-year deal to collaborate on the development, manufacture, and commercialization of lentiviral reagents for shRNA expression vector delivery.
Through the arrangement, Dharmacon has gained access to a technology that allows it to expand its product portfolio to include its first expressed RNAi reagents. For Lentigen, which has been working to make a name for itself in the RNAi field since it was founded in December 2004, the deal represents a partnership with one of the industry’s top players.
“We have never had an expressed RNAi product … because we’ve always been concerned about how well the systems work,” Bill Marshall, vice president of technology and business development for Dharmacon parent firm Fisher Biosciences, told RNAi News this week.
By partnering with Lentigen, Dharmacon has found a collaborator with the needed expertise, he said.
Boro Dropulic, founder and CEO of Lentigen, told RNAi News this week that to his company, Dharmacon is “the leader … in the [RNAi] space,” which makes the alliance particularly valuable for the year-and-a-half old start-up. “We were quite happy to partner with them.”
Under the terms of the deal, the companies will combine Dharmacon’s know-how in designing efficient gene-silencing reagents with Lentigen’s LentiMax vector system. Products resulting from the deal will be manufactured by Lenitgen and marketed by Dharmacon.
According to Marshall, Dharmacon plans to sell the lentiviral reagents on a “custom basis to customers wanting [to target] either a particular individual gene or sets of genes,” rather than in collections.
“The way we look at it is the lentiviral systems are complementary to our siRNA collections,” he said. “If you need to do a very long-term suppression experiment or create a stable cell line or [get knock down] in a cell that’s simply impossible to get into with other methods, that’s where we see the lentivirus really having an opportunity to round out the [Dharmacon] product offering.”
“As things develop, and we work with a partner who is interested in some collection, then we would commercialize [lentiviral reagent sets] downstream,” Marshall added.

“We have never had an expressed RNAi product … because we’ve always been concerned about how well the systems work.”

Though still a new company, Lentigen has the capability to manufacture the reagents at “small, large, and high-throughput scales,” Dropulic said. Late last year, Lentigen announced that it had signed a deal expanding its relationship with contract manufacturer Omnia Biologics (see RNAi News, 12/9/2005).
But before any manufacturing and marketing begins, Dharmacon and Lentigen must complete an ongoing research phase of their deal that includes “optimizing the integration of the two technologies: the lentiviral vector gene-delivery technology, which we already have for the delivery of genes and sequences through our custom business … and specific [RNAi] technologies that Dharmacon/Fisher has,” Dropulic said.
The companies want to validate “that we can get good activity so that when we do launch a product it will have a higher probability of success than some of the previous efforts have had,” Marshall added.
The companies anticipate completing this research in time for an early 2007 product launch, Marshall said, adding that the terms of the arrangement call for Lentigen and Dharmacon to share the revenues generated.

Additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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