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Novartis, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Regulus Therapeutics, Sigma-Aldrich, the RNAi Consortium, Agilent Technologies, Arrowhead Research, Bio-Rad

This article has been updated from a previous version to clarify Sigma-Aldrich's role in the validation process.
Novartis Buys Additional Shares of Alnylam Stock
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals this week said that its partner Novartis has exercised an option to purchase 213,888 unregistered shares of Alnylam common stock pursuant to the companies’ 2005 drug-development collaboration.
As reported by RNAi News, the companies formed an alliance in September 2005 that included Novartis’ purchase of roughly 5.3 million shares of Alnylam, which translated to a 19.9 percent stake, for $11.11 a share (see RNAi News, 9/9/2005).
Novartis’ position in Alnylam later fell to about 13 percent.
The deal also gave Novartis the right to purchase the additional 213,888 shares, which it has done so for about $5.4 million. The transaction has increased Novartis’ current stake in Alnylam to approximately 13.4 percent.

Regulus Licenses miRNA IP from Stanford University
Regulus Therapeutics, a joint venture between Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Isis Pharmaceuticals (see RNAi News, 9/13/2007), said last week that it has exclusively licensed from Stanford University worldwide patent applications covering methods and compositions for antagonizing microRNA-181a to regulate immune responses.
“Changes in miR-181a levels have been shown to modify the response of immune cells such as T lymphocytes to specific stimuli and its antagonism could lead to a new way to treat inflammatory diseases,” the company said.
Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Sigma-Aldrich to Validate shRNA Vector Constructs for RNAi Consortium
Sigma-Aldrich this week said that it is working with the RNAi Consortium to functionally validate around 160,000 previously cloned, lentiviral-based shRNA vector constructs as part the second phase of the project.
“Currently, more than 5,000 clones have been tested in the functional validation process,” the company said. “Validated clones covering more than 700 genes are available in Sigma-Aldrich's Mission shRNA collection, a number expected to grow by 75,000 clones per year through 2011.”
Sigma-Aldrich added that the consortium intends to generate and validate 150,000 additional clones to help develop new RNAi screening approaches.
The RNAi Consortium is a public/private alliance of RNAi researchers focused on the development and public release of genome-scale sets of virally expressed shRNAs targeting mouse and human genes. The establishment of the consortium by the Broad Institute was first reported by RNAi News in 2004 (see RNAi News, 4/9/2004).

Agilent Expands Colorado Nucleic Acid Manufacturing Facility
Agilent Technologies last week said that it has expanded its nucleic acid active-pharmaceutical ingredient-manufacturing facility in Boulder, Colo.
In conjunction with the expansion, Agilent said it has acquired the assets of Dowpharma’s nucleic acid medicines business for an undisclosed sum.
"This expansion represents a significant commitment by Agilent to meet the supply demands of a rapidly expanding market," James Powell, general manager of Agilent's nucleic acid solutions division, said in a statement. "Merging our expansion plans with the acquisition of Dow's assets will allow Agilent to respond to this demand well ahead of our original plan.”

Arrowhead Sells Off Materials Integration Subsidiary
Arrowhead Research, the parent firm of RNAi drug developer Calando Pharmaceuticals, announced last week the sale of its majority-owned subsidiary Aonex Technologies for up to $7.95 million in earn-out payments.
Arrowhead also stands to receive a running royalty on sales of solar products incorporating Aonex’s technologies.
Aonex was founded in 2004 to commercialize materials integration technology for high-efficiency solar cells, according to Arrowhead.

Acquisition Pushes Bio-Rad's Q1 Revenues Up 31 Percent
Bio-Rad Laboratories announced this week that its first-quarter revenues rose 31 percent, due in large part to its acquisition of DiaMed Holding, a developer of blood-typing reagents and screening tools, late last year.
The Hercules, Calif.-based firm reported revenues of $422.2 million for the three-month period ended March 31, compared to $322.5 million for the first quarter of 2007. Excluding the revenue contribution from DiaMed, which was $62.7 million during the quarter, and currency translation, Bio-Rad’s revenues increased 4.5 percent year over year.
Sales for the firm’s life science segment increased 9.2 percent to $154.6 million, while clinical diagnostics sales rose 48.4 percent. Excluding DiaMed’s contribution, diagnostics sales were up 13.1 percent, said Bio-Rad.
The firm said that capital instrument sales in its life sciences segment were “down slightly” in the first quarter due to reduced spending among academic and biopharmaceutical customers.

“We don't really see this as lost opportunities, but more deferred opportunities and are fairly confident that that won't be something we see through the end of the year,” Brad Crutchfield, vice president of the life sciences business, said during the firm’s conference call.

“Our biopharma, our for-profit customers, were fairly conservative in terms of ... purchasing and, in general, we've seen a cycle over the last two or three years with the sort of traditionally government-sponsored research, of researchers being a little bit conservative in the first quarter and kind of holding back on their budget and purchases,” he added.

Bio-Rad’s net income dipped slightly to $26.5 million, or $.96 per share, from $27 million, or $.99 per share. The firm’s profit in Q1 2008 includes $6.7 million of amortization and purchase accounting adjustments associated with the DiaMed acquisition.
The company’s R&D spending climbed 14.3 percent to $37.5 million from $32.8 million, while its SG&A costs jumped 29.6 percent to $139.7 million from $107.8 million.
Bio-Rad finished the quarter with $129.5 million in cash and cash equivalents.
“Our outlook for 2008 remains unchanged from the guidance we provided in February,” said CFO Christine Tsingos during the call. “That is, for top line, currency-neutral, organic growth to be in the mid-to-high single-digits and closer to the high teens when we include the additional DiaMed sales.”

The Scan

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Neurological Outcomes Linked to Innate Immune Features After Cardiac Arrest

Researchers reporting in Med dig into immune features found a few hours after cardiac arrest that correspond with neurological outcomes.

Mouse Study Finds Circadian Rhythm-Related Gene Expression Changes Linked to Sleep Apnea

A paper in PLOS Biology reveals tissue-specific circadian rhythm and gene expression patterns in an intermittent hypoxia-based mouse model of obstructive sleep apnea.

Polygenic Risk Score to Predict Preeclampsia, Gestational Hypertension in Pregnant Women

Researchers in Nature Medicine provide new mechanistic insights into the development of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which may help develop therapeutics.