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Letter May Show Max Planck Owns Tuschl-II


A letter sent in 2004 by officials at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the University of Massachusetts indicates that RNAi intellectual property at the heart of an ongoing legal battle belongs to the Max Planck Institute and therefore should be viewed as a confirmation of the ownership of the disputed IP, attorneys for plaintiffs Max Planck and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals argue.

The letter "was never intended to be a private communication," the attorneys say in a court filing. "Rather, it was intended to confirm the parties' understanding of the limits on the use of data [at issue] and inventions owned exclusively by Max Planck and reserved" for its own patent applications.

In the filing, the plaintiffs' counsel also provide some background on the dispute, including details of a meeting in early 2004 between the chief executives of Alnylam and rival Sirna Therapeutics that led up to the litigation.

In June this year, Alnylam and Max Planck announced that they had sued Whitehead, MIT, and UMass for allegedly misappropriating certain siRNA-related inventions, including the use of 3' overhangs, from the so-called Tuschl-II patent family for inclusion in patent applications from the Tuschl-I estate.

Alnylam holds the exclusive therapeutic rights to the Tuschl-II family, which were licensed from the IP's sole owner, Max Planck, but shares therapeutic rights to the Tuschl-I estate — invented at Max Planck, Whitehead, MIT, and UMass — with Merck subsidiary Sirna Therapeutics and, to a limited degree, RXi Pharmaceuticals.

As such, the plaintiffs allege in their lawsuit, filed in the Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, that if Tuschl-II inventions are incorporated into Tuschl-I patent applications, Sirna, RXi, and any other company sublicensing the IP "will unfairly gain access to the Tuschl-II property without paying consideration for a license."

— Doug Macron

RNAi Notes

New Zealand's Genesis Research and Development made a deal with investors to allow the company to establish a subsidiary to develop its single-stranded RNAi technology.

Quark Pharmaceuticals plans to file an investigational new drug application this month for its siRNA-based eye-disease treatment, QPI-1007, for non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy.

Bioo Scientific was awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a targeted, in vivo RNAi-delivery technology.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals
will be collaborating to find new cationic lipids and lipid nanoparticles to be used in systemic
delivery of RNAi drugs.

The number of years Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Novartis will have been collaborating on RNAi therapeutics when their deal ends in October 2010

Funded Grants

$370,800/FY 2009
Regulation and Function of
Urocortins and their Receptors
Grantee: Aditi Bhargava, University of California,
San Francisco
Began: Apr. 1, 2009; Ends: Mar. 31, 2014
Bhargava and her colleagues will study the role of urocortins and their receptors in intestinal inflammation through pharmacological, genetic, and RNAi-based approaches. With knockouts and heterozygous mice, they will look at inflammation and agonist sensitivity and use RNAi to knock down urocortins and their receptors.

$218,250/FY 2009
Automated analysis of cell cycle genes
in Trypanosoma brucei
Grantee: Lawrence Ruben, Southern Methodist University
Began: Apr. 15, 2009; Ends: Mar. 31, 2011
Ruben and his colleagues plan to create tagged markers from cells from trypanosomes, protozoa that cause trypanosomiasis, to identify cell cycle regulatory genes in a high-throughput manner. They will then use those cells to screen an RNAi library to identify cell cycle regulators that they say will also include targets for therapy.

The Scan

Shape of Them All

According to BBC News, researchers have developed a protein structure database that includes much of the human proteome.

For Flu and More

The Wall Street Journal reports that several vaccine developers are working on mRNA-based vaccines for influenza.

To Boost Women

China's Ministry of Science and Technology aims to boost the number of female researchers through a new policy, reports the South China Morning Post.

Science Papers Describe Approach to Predict Chemotherapeutic Response, Role of Transcriptional Noise

In Science this week: neural network to predict chemotherapeutic response in cancer patients, and more.