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Nastech Pharmaceutical, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Opko Health, Rosetta Genomics, Invitrogen

During Q3 Call, Nastech Official Offers a Few Details on RNAi Spinout
Nastech Pharmaceutical this week reported that third-quarter net losses more than doubled on a sharp drop in revenues.
During a conference call to discuss the results, Nastech President and CEO Steven Quay also provided some details on the company’s nascent RNAi activities, noting that it has begun exploring microRNA therapeutics and diagnostics through its MD-RNA subsidiary.
Nastech has been contemplating spinning out its RNAi drug operations into MD-RNA for some time, and late this summer said that the move could be completed within a year (see RNAi News, 8/16/2007).
During this week’s conference call, Quay noted that not only would MD-RNA likely develop Nastech’s pipeline of siRNA drugs, but would also focus on “microRNA therapeutics in cancer and heart disease.”
Additionally, “we want to participate in a collaborative fashion on the development of in vitro diagnostics based on disease-specific expression profiles of messenger RNA, microRNA, and other sequences to assist in both clinical development and market adoption of these new medicines,” he said.
He declined to comment further on the status of MD-RNA when asked for more information by analysts during the call.
For the third quarter, Nastech posted a net loss of $16.5 million, or $0.66 per share, compared with a year-ago loss of $7.8 million, or $0.36 per share.
Revenues in the quarter sank to $1.9 million from $5.5 million in the same period 2006, while research and development spending climbed to $13.8 million from $10.5 million.
As of Sept. 30, Nastech had cash, cash equivalents, and investments worth about $60 million.

Isis to Receive Up to $9.9M to Develop Huntington’s Disease Drug
Isis Pharmaceuticals said last week that it will receive up to $9.9 million from CHDI, a non-profit foundation focused on advancing Huntington’s disease treatments, to discover and develop antisense-based drugs for the disease.
The funding will be provided over three years and will support the identification and preclinical evaluation of antisense agents targeting huntingtin, the gene that, when mutated, is responsible for Huntington’s disease.
Under an earlier research arrangement with CHDI, Isis said it demonstrated a reduction in huntingtin protein expression in both brain and peripheral tissues of normal mice using proprietary antisense oligonucleotides.

Opko Licenses Non-RNAi Drug to Prevent Ocular Inflammatory Disease
Opko Health said this week that it has acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to a non-RNAi product for the prevention of an inflammatory condition of the eye.
Specific details of the transaction were not disclosed.
According to the company, the collagen-based product is designed to be applied after invasive retinal procedures to prevent the development of endophthalmitis, inflammation of the eye usually caused by infection.
“Experts are raising the alarm about a significant rise in cases of endophthalmitis, a devastating complication of invasive ocular procedures that can result in complete blindness and surgical removal of the infected eye," Samuel Reich, executive vice president of ophthalmologics at Opko, said in a statement. "We believe this easy-to-use, elegant ocular product can reduce the incidence of endophthalmitis in the significant number of patients at risk annually."
An Opko spokesperson told RNAi News that endophthalmitis has been linked to the intravitreal injections associated with wet age-related macular degeneration treatments. Opko is currently conducting a phase III trial of an siRNA-based AMD drug (see RNAi News, 9/6/2007).

Rosetta Wraps Up Prevalidation of Lung Cancer Dx
Rosetta Genomics said this week that it has completed the prevalidation phase for its first microRNA-based diagnostic product, a test for distinguishing squamous from non-squamous lung cancer.
"Results of the prevalidation phase showed the test differentiated squamous from non-squamous lung cancer using microRNA biomarkers identified by us, with both high sensitivity and specificity,” Amir Avniel, president and CEO of Rosetta, said in a statement. “We expect the test to be available for clinical use in the first half of ‘08.”
Rosetta also anticipates launching two other miRNA-based diagnostics next year including one for differentiating lung adenocarcinoma from mesothelioma, as well as one for identifying the source of metastases (see RNAi News, 8/9/2007).

Invitrogen's Q3 Revenues Rise 11 Percent As Loss Swings to Profit
Invitrogen this week reported that third-quarter revenues rose 11 percent as R&D spending increased 9 percent and a net loss last year swung to a profit this time around.
Total revenues for the three months ended Sept. 30 rose to $315 million from $284.2 million year over year.
Sales from Invitrogen’s Biodiscovery unit swelled 10 percent to $220.4 million for the third quarter, while receipts from its Cell Culture Systems division jumped 12 percent to $94.6 million year over year.
"Our focus from here is to sustain and expand upon these results by driving further sales penetration in high-growth regions, targeted investments in breakthrough technologies, and broader implementation of our reagent productivity strategies,” Invitrogen CEO Greg Lucier said in a statement.
R&D spending increased to $28.6 million from $26.3 million year over year.
The company recorded a $31 million profit compared with a $130 million loss in the year-ago period.
Invitrogen said it had around $648.4 million in cash and equivalents and short-term investments as of Sept. 30.
The company said it expects fourth-quarter revenue growth to be in the mid-single digits.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.