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Marina Sells UNA Patent Estate to Arcturus as It Looks to Resume Operations

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Startup Arcturus Therapeutics this week announced that it has acquired Marina Biotech’s unlocked nucleobase analog intellectual property in a move the company said would give it freedom to operate in the RNAi drugs space.

The transaction also represents Marina’s latest step toward monetizing its assets following a shutdown last summer. With this latest transaction, however, the company said it has gained much-needed breathing room as it tries to resume operations.

UNAs comprise acyclic ribonucleoside analogs in which the bond between C2' and C3' atoms is broken. The resultant change in sugar structure is designed to make the analogs flexible and reduce the binding affinity of siRNA strands.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Arcturus said it now fully owns the UNA technology, which it will incorporate into its own drug candidates and which it may out-license to generate revenue.

Since buckling under a cash crunch last year and laying off virtually all of its employees (GSN 6/7/2012), Marina has been on the lookout for parties interested in acquiring its assets.

For instance, last December, it non-exclusively licensed the UNA technology to Tekmira (GSN 12/6/2012). That same month, it sold off all of its laboratory equipment (GSN 12/13/2012).

However, Marina said this week that it has amended a secured loan, extending its maturity date to March 31, 2014.

This, along with the Arcturus deal, has given Marina “additional runway to pursue both collaboration transactions and financing opportunities in order to fund our operations and advance our clinical and preclinical programs,” President and CEO Michael French said in a statement.

Should Marina be able to obtain sufficient funding through a partnership or financing, the company aims to relocate to Cambridge, Mass.

French said Marina hopes to secure that funding by the end of 2013, and be in a position to resume a phase Ib/IIa clinical study of its familial adenomatous polyposis treatment CEQ508, in the first quarter of 2014.

The trial was halted early due to Marina’s financial constraints.

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