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Dharmacon, Sigma-Aldrich, Pfizer, Protiva, Inex, Cornell Capital Partners, Atugen, CombiMatrix

Dharmacon Plans Publication of RNAi Screening Standards
Dharmacon is planning on publishing within the first half of this year a proposed set of standards for conducting RNAi screening experiments, RNAi News has learned. The standards were developed by a consortium of research centers the company established in late 2005.
“We hope to publish the … standards … within the first half of 2007, if not within the first quarter,” Bill Marshall, vice president of technology and business development for Dharmacon parent Thermo Fisher Scientific, told RNAi News last month. The company expects to publish the standards in a “very respected journal,” after which “we would hope there would be broad adoption“ of the guidelines.
The standards, termed MIARE, or Minimal Information About RNAi Experiments, are an outgrowth of Dharmacon’s Genome-Wide RNAi Global Initiative, an alliance of international non-profit biomedical research centers that will use the company's siArray human genome siRNA library to conduct genome-wide RNAi screens to accelerate drug discovery and development (see RNAi News, 5/25/2005).
One of the initiative’s primary goals was to create the MIARE standards, as well as to provide a forum for member institutes to share research protocols, establish experimental standards, and develop mechanisms for exchanging and comparing screening data.
According to Marshall, through the initiative Dharmacon provided the proposed standards to “a broad section of the RNAi community that would include people using different modalities for employing RNAi … to ensure that we do get a global agreement around what the standards should be.”
Although Dharmacon is the only industry representative in the Genome-Wide RNAi Global Initiative, he noted that the company plans to include other commercial reagent providers in the MIARE effort. “We are actively reaching out to academic researchers, we are reaching out to industrial researchers, we’re reaching out to other providers of RNAi … so that we can create this global standard to advance everyone’s ability to” use the technology, he said.
“We’re working upfront so that there are very few arguments against the sort of standards that one would apply,” Marshall added.

Sigma-Aldrich Licenses Expressed RNAi Technology to Pfizer
Sigma-Aldrich said this week that it has granted a worldwide, non-exclusive research license for its DNA-directed RNAi technology to Pfizer.
The license gives Pfizer the rights to use the ddRNAi technology in its research activities throughout its global operations, Sigma-Aldrich said. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Sigma-Aldrich acquired an exclusive license to the expressed RNAi technology in the human field, as well as sublicense rights, through a deal with Benitec (see RNAi News, 10/28/2005).

Protiva Drops US Litigation Against Inex
Protiva Biotherapeutics said last month that it has dropped its lawsuits against Inex Pharmaceuticals in the Superior Court of the State of California in order to focus on other litigation the company is pursuing.
Protiva’s suit against Inex stems from an oligo delivery technology termed SNALPs, or stable nucleic acid lipid particles. In January 2001, Protiva was spun out of Inex in order to develop a gene-delivery technology for cancer and inflammatory diseases. Protiva developed that technology into SNALPs.
After shopping SNALPs around as a delivery vehicle for RNAi molecules, Protiva eventually signed a deal with Sirna Therapeutics (see RNAi News, 7/29/2005). However, that arrangement fell apart amid allegations that the SNALP technology actually belongs to Inex, not Protiva.
Protiva ultimately sued Sirna in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco (see RNAi News, 3/30/2006). That case — as well as a countersuit by Sirna — is still ongoing (see RNAi News, 12/7/2006).
Protiva also initially sued Inex in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, then filed an additional suit in the Superior Court of the State of California (see RNAi News, 9/14/2006).
However, Protiva said last month that it has it has filed for a dismissal of its California suit against Inex in order to focus on its case against Sirna and to appeal a decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeals. That ruling seeks to overturn an earlier ruling by the British Columbia Supreme Court that overrode Protiva’s claim to the right to withhold consent to Inex’s transfer of its agreements with Protiva to a spinout called Tekmira Pharmaceuticals.

Atugen Receives European Patent on siRNA Molecules
SR Pharma said this week that the European Patent Office has awarded the company’s subsidiary Atugen a patent covering its core RNAi technology.
The patent, EP 03784183.0, covers stabilized siRNAs with blunt ends and positional modifications, according to SR Pharma.

Cash-Strapped CombiMatrix Cancels $50M Equity Deal With VC Group
CombiMatrix has cancelled its standby equity distribution with Cornell Capital Partners, thereby forfeiting a $50 million windfall, parent Acacia Research said last month.
The microarray company, which had been pursuing development of RNAi therapeutics, said in mid-June that it would sell as much as $50 million worth of its registered shares at a 2.5-percent discount to Cornell. CombiMatrix President and CEO Amit Kumar said at the time that the cash would “provide us the flexibility to access additional capital at our discretion.”
Kumar said the company planned to use the capital to remain solvent for two years while it pushed ahead with its molecular diagnostics research and marketing strategies. 
The firms did not say why they decided to cancel the agreement.
The decision to cancel the financing comes at a time when CombiMatrix has been facing a cash crunch. The company burned through more than $11 million in the first nine months of this year, heading into the fourth quarter with $8.3 million in cash and short-term investments.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.