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Nucleonics Asserts IP Strength, New RNAi-Related US Patent Applications

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Last week, executives from Benitec told RNAi News that the company, holding one of the few issued US patents on RNAi-related technology, was preparing to pursue legal action over the coming year against perceived infringers of its intellectual property if no outlicensing deals could be established. (See RNAi News, 1/30/2003).

Although Benitec chairman and CEO John McKinley declined to name names, he did state that he believes Nucleonics, which uses an RNAi technology (called expressed interfering RNA) very similar to Benitec’s, “needs a license.”

Nucleonics president and CEO Bob Towarnicki told RNAi News this week that his firm has reviewed Benitec’s technology and that he does not see an overlap between the companies’ technologies.

“We think that we are free to operate without any of the IP that Benitec has,” Towarnicki said. “We’ve had discussions with [Benitec] — we discuss the field with all the players. It’s an emerging area in terms of IP, so we look at the entire situation.”

He added that “we believe that with the patents we’ve licensed and the patent applications we’ve written ourselves, we have freedom to operate in the area of expressed interfering RNA.”


Title: Compositions and Processes Using siRNA, Amphipathic Compounds, and Polycations. Number: 20040019008. Filed: July 17, 2003. Lead Inventor: David Lewis, Mirus.

According to the patent application’s abstract, the invention is a “composition with low toxicity comprising an amphipathic compound and a polycation, useful for delivering siRNA to a cell.”

The abstract adds that “the composition may be used in the process of delivering a[n] siRNA to an animal cell, or more particularly, a mammal cell, in a multi-well format.”

The patent application notes that the polycation of the invention is selected from “a group consisting of polyvinylamin and polyallylamin.”


Title: RNA Interference-Mediated Inhibition of Protein Typrosine Phosphatase-1B (PTP-1B) Gene Expression Using Short Interfering RNA. Number: 20040019001. Filed: July 26, 2002. Lead Inventor: James McSwiggen, Sirna Therapeutics.

The patent application, its abstract states, covers “methods and reagents useful in modulating gene expression in a variety of applications, including use in therapeutic, diagnostic, target validation, and genomic discovery applications associated with insulin response.”

The abstract states that “the invention relates to small interfering RNA molecules capable of mediating RNA interference against PTP-1B polypeptide and polynucleotide targets.”

The application adds that the siRNA molecule of the invention may be adapted for use to treat type I and type II diabetes, obesity, and combinations thereof.


Title: Methods and Compositions for RNA Interference. Number: 20040018999. Filed: May 16, 2001. Lead Inventor: David Beach, Genetica.

The patent application’s abstract states that the invention “provides methods for attenuating gene expression in a cell using gene-targeted double-stranded RNA. The dsRNA contains a nucleotide sequence that hybridizes under physiological conditions of the cell to the nucleotide sequence of at least a portion of the gene to be inhibited.”

The application also covers “an assay for identifying nucleic acid sequences for conferring a particular phenotype in a cell,” as well as “a method of conducting a drug discovery business comprising: [the use of the assay to identify] a target gene, identifying agents by their ability to inhibit expression of the target gene [or its activity], conducting therapeutic profiling of agents … [and] formulating a pharmaceutical preparation including one or more [of the inhibitory] agents.”

The patent application also claims the establishment of “a distribution system for distributing the pharmaceutical preparation for sale.”


Title: Compositions and Methods for siRNA Inhibition of Angiogenesis. Number: 20040018176. Filed: Nov. 14, 2002. Lead Inventor: Michael Tolentino, Acuity Pharmaceuticals/University of Pennsylvania.

The patent application, its abstract states, covers “RNA interference using small interfering RNAs, which are specific for the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene and the VEGF receptors Flt-1 and Flk-1/KDR, [to] inhibit expression of these genes.”

The abstract adds that “diseases which involve angiogenesis stimulated by over-expression of VEGF, such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and many types of cancer, can be treated by administering the small interfering RNAs.”