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Intradigm, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Quark Pharmaceuticals, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Open Biosystems, University of Queensland, University of Copenhagen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Isis Pharmaceuticals

Intradigm Licenses siRNA IP from UMMS
Intradigm announced this week that it has licensed intellectual property related to certain “efficiency-enhancing structural elements” of siRNAs from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
According to the company, the IP includes “parameters for the structural modifications for next generation siRNAs … that significantly improve the potency and efficacy of RNAi therapeutics.”
“By licensing this important IP from the University of Massachusetts Medical School … Intradigm has taken another critical step toward its goal of establishing itself as a leader in the development and commercialization of novel RNAi therapeutics," Mohammad Azab, president and CEO of Intradigm, said in a statement.
Specific terms of the license were not disclosed.

Quark Closes $27M Private Financing Round
Quark Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has closed a $27 million round of private financing.
Quark said it would use the proceeds of the financing to support its ongoing RNAi drug-development efforts.
"The additional funding we are announcing today will allow us to significantly expand our clinical program,” Daniel Zurr, Quark CEO, said in a statement.
Completion of the financing round comes about eight months after Quark dropped plans to float its shares publicly in the US (see RNAi News, 8/2/2007). Although Quark had later said it would re-file for an initial public offering in the US during the first half of 2008, Zurr later told RNAi News that the company had put these plans on hold indefinitely (see RNAi News, 11/22/2007).

Alnylam Begins Second Phase II Study of RSV Drug Candidate
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has begun a phase II trial examining the safety and tolerability of its investigational respiratory syncytial virus therapy ALN-RSV01 compared with placebo in adult lung transplant patients naturally infected with the virus.
Specifically, the 21-patient trial will assess the safety and tolerability of aerosolized ALN-RSV01, as well as evaluate the anti-viral activity and pharmacokinetics of the siRNA-based drug.
“Methods for measuring anti-viral activity include nasal swabs to determine level of viral shedding, as well as bronchoalveolar lavage sampling in certain patients as determined necessary by the attending physician,” Alnylam said.
Initiation of the phase II trial comes about a month after Alnylam reported that treatment with ALN-RSV01 in patients experimentally infected with RSV led to a statistically significant decrease in infection rate and an increase in the number of patients who remained infection free (see RNAi News, 3/6/2008).

Open Biosystems Adds Two New Institutions to Open Access Program
Open Biosystems said this week that the University of Queensland and the University of Copenhagen have purchased access to its lentiviral shRNAmir human and mouse libraries by joining its Open Access RNAi Program.
Specific terms of the arrangements were not disclosed.
Established in 2006, the Open Access Program is designed to make Open Biosystems’ genome-wide shRNA libraries more available to the research community (see RNAi News, 2/2/2006).
Current participants in the Open Access program include Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, Australia's Peter MacCullum Cancer Centre, Northwestern University, the University of Manitoba, University College London, and the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Selects Antisense Drug Candidate Under Isis Collaboration
Isis Pharmaceuticals this week announced that Bristol-Myers Squibb has selected a compound for development from the companies’ ongoing collaboration focused on developing antisense-based drugs for cardiovascular disease (see RNAi News, 5/10/2007).
As a result, Isis will receive a $2 million milestone payment from Bristol-Myers Squibb.
According to Isis, the drug candidate, which targets proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9, is being developed as a treatment for high cholesterol. Isis partner Alnylam Pharmaceuticals is developing an RNAi-based treatment for hypercholesterolemia that also targets PCSK9 (see RNAi News, 10/11/2007).

The Scan

Genes Linked to White-Tailed Jackrabbits' Winter Coat Color Change

Climate change, the researchers noted in Science, may lead to camouflage mismatch and increase predation of white-tailed jackrabbits.

Adenine Base Editor Targets SCID Mutation in New Study

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, report in Cell that adenine base editing was able to produce functional T lymphocytes in a model of severe combined immune deficiency.

Researchers Find Gene Affecting Alkaline Sensitivity in Plants

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have found a locus affecting alkaline-salinity sensitivity, which could aid in efforts to improve crop productivity, as they report in Science.

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.