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Isis Pharmaceuticals, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Invitrogen and Zymed Laboratories, Becton Dickinson and Clontech, and Sangamo BioSciences


Isis to Lay Off 40 Percent Amid Reorganization

Isis Pharmaceuticals said this week that it is planning on laying off about 40 percent of its workforce as it reorganizes itself to focus on its most promising antisense-drug candidates.

According to Isis’ website, the company currently employs 450 people, meaning the layoffs would affect about 180 people.

“With this reorganization, we have taken significant steps to implement cost containment measures that are consistent with accomplishing our goals,” Lynne Parshall, executive vice president and CFO of Isis, said in a statement. “While we are still in the process of finalizing our plan for this year and will provide additional financial guidance in our fourth quarter financial results announcement, our goal for our 2005 net operating loss, excluding restructuring charges and non-cash compensation expense from stock options, is a 40 percent or greater reduction from 2004.”

Parshall added that the reorganization is expected to result in write-downs of between $30 million and $40 million, most of which will be recorded in the fourth quarter of 2004. “Further restructuring charges including those associated with termination costs will be incurred in the first quarter of 2005,” she added. “Before the restructuring charges, we are on track to meet our net operating loss target for 2004, which is in the mid-$80 million range, excluding non-cash compensation expense.”

Isis said that a key goal of its reorganization is to find a commercial partner for alicaforsen enema as a treatment of ulcerative colitis. Additionally, the company plans to advance its development of ISIS 301012, a treatment for high cholesterol, and ISIS 113715, a type 2 diabetes treatment.

The company also intends to drop development of ISIS 14803, a drug for the treatment of hepatitis C, and ISIS 104838, a treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Alnylam Reports Preclinical Data on RNAi Drug Targeting ApoB

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has presented data on siRNA silencing of the endogenous apoB gene at the Keystone Symposium in Breckenridge, Colo.

According to the company, the data show that silencing of the apoB gene by chemically modified siRNA was durable in mice, lasting at least 7 days in liver and 3 days in intestine after a single systemic injection.

“The mice fed a high fat, Western-type diet and treated with this chemically modified siRNA were protected from developing elevated cholesterol levels as compared with mice treated with a saline control,” Alnylam said in a statement. “Accordingly, the siRNA was shown to exhibit a therapeutic effect in a model of hypercholesterolemia.”

Invitrogen to Acquire Zymed

Invitrogen plans to acquire antibody manufacturer Zymed Laboratories for $60 million in cash, the company said this week.

Zymed, based in South San Francisco, offers immunoassay reagents for research and clinical diagnostics. The company has more than 2,000 antibodies and related products suitable for research in the areas of cancer, neurological diseases, and infectious disease.

Following the acquisition, which is expected to close by the end of February, Zymed’s South San Francisco facility will become the main site for Invitrogen’s antibody production and distribution.

Invitrogen expects Zymed to generate $15 million in sales during the first year following the acquisition.

Becton Dickinson to Sell Clontech in Q2 or Q3

Becton Dickinson expects to complete the sale of its Clontech division in the second or third quarter, the company has said.

“The process is moving ahead according to schedule,” Vince Forlenza, president of BD Biosciences, told GenomeWeb News, RNAi News’ sister publication, at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, held in San Francisco this week.

As GenomeWeb News reported last October, BD said it plans to sell the Clontech business because it wants to “focus its strategy on cell analysis, discovery labware and its new platforms of imaging and in vitro drug metabolism/toxicity testing,” Edward Ludwig, chairman, president and CEO of BD said in a statement.

The planned sale “also allows us to direct our resources toward higher-growth opportunities in the pharmaceutical drug discovery arena,” Ludwig added. BD has still not disclosed the buyer.

BD has hired Goldman Sachs to be its financial advisor for the divestiture.

Sangamo Files IND for ZFP Drug

Sangamo BioSciences said this week that it has filed an investigational new drug application with US regulators to begin clinical testing of SB-509, an investigational diabetic neuropathy treatment.

The drug, said the company, is a formulation of plasmid DNA that encodes a zinc finger DNA-binding protein transcription factor. It is designed to upregulate the vascular endothelial growth factor A, which the company said has neuroproliferative, neuroregenerative, and neuroprotective properties.

“In preclinical animal efficacy studies, SB-509 has proven effective in protecting motor and sensory nerve function in a diabetic model and in stimulating nerve regeneration,” Sangamo noted.

If the US Food and Drug Administration okays the company’s IND, a phase I/II trial of SB-509 is expected to start the first half of 2005. The single-blind, dose-escalation study will to evaluate clinical safety of the drug in diabetics with mild to moderate diabetic peripheral sensory motor neuropathy in the legs.


The Scan

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UK Health Secretary Resigns

Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, resigned along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, saying they cannot work with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government, CNN reports.

Clones From Freeze-Dried Cells

A team in Japan has cloned mice from freeze-dried skin cells, according to the Guardian.

Genome Research Papers on Craniosynostosis, Macaque Retrotransposition, More

In Genome Research this week: structural variants in craniosynostosis, LINE-1 activity in rhesus macaque brain, and more.