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OncoGenex, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Sigma-Aldrich, Cyntellect, Quark Biotech, CombiMatrix


OncoGenex Licenses Cancer Target,
Which Is Added to Isis Collaboration

OncoGenex said this week that it has in-licensed the rights to inhibitors of heat shock protein 27, which is over-expressed in many tumors and is associated with drug resistance, from the University of British Columbia.

Oncogenex also said the Hsp27 has been accepted by Isis Pharmaceuticals as a target under the companies' expanded antisense drug discovery agreement signed earlier this year. An antisense agent targeting the protein, called OGX-427, is expected to enter clinical trials in 2006, the company said.

Isis Begins Development Work on
First Antisense Asthma Therapy

Isis Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has begun development of an antisense-based asthma and pulmonary disease treatment.

The drug, ISIS 369645, is an inhibitor of the alpha subunit of the interleukin 4 receptor, IL4R-alpha, the company said. Inhibiting IL4R-alpha blocks the activity of two important cytokines in asthma, IL4 and IL13, which regulate inflammation, mucus overproduction, and airway hyper-responsiveness.

Sigma-Aldrich Reports Weak
Organic Q1 Revenue Growth …

Sigma-Aldrich posted this week an 8.6 percent increase in first-quarter sales, which grew to $400 million from $368.1 million in the same quarter last year. However, 2.3 percent of that growth was organic.

Sigma attributed 3.2 percentage points of the gain to its recent acquisition of JRH Bioscience's industrial cell culture business. Additionally, 3.1 percent were the result of currency benefits.

The company spent $11.7 million on R&D in the first quarter, up from $10.7 million year over year.

Sigma said that its net income for the first quarter increased 19.7 percent to $74.6 million, or $1.08 per basic share, from $62.3 million, or $.90 per basic share, in the year-ago period.

As of March 31, Sigma had $164.1 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand, the company said.

… And Plans to Commercialize
Cyntellect's CellXpress Services

Sigma Aldrich will market Cyntellect's CellXpress services to biopharmaceutical markets served by the SAFC/JRH Biopharma unit, the companies said this week.

CellXpress, a service for isolating high- titer cells for production of biotherapeutics, will provide "access to state-of-the-art technology" and a "clear competitive advantage" to SAFC/JRH customers, according to Carl Schrott, the biopharma unit's strategic marketing manager.

Schrott credited CellXpress with having the abilities to enable the "cloning of cell lines that secrete significantly greater amounts of protein than cell lines" than competitive technology in "a shorter amount of time."

Financial details were not discussed.

Quark to Present Data on Diabetic
Retinal Disease Target Next Week

Quark Biotech said this week that findings from a study indicate that the hypoxia-inducible gene RTP801, which the company is targeting in an RNAi program for age-related macular degeneration, may play a role in the pathogenesis of early diabetic retinal disease.

According to the company, the study will be presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology's annual conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next week.

"RTP801 has been validated in vivo in several diseases, including early diabetic retinal disease," Daniel Zurr, CEO of Quark, said in a statement. "We believe that this gene may be used as target to develop novel therapeutics and we are looking forward to adding it to our pipeline."

CombiMatrix Posts Steep Decline in
Q1 Receipts As Profit Turns to Loss

Acacia's CombiMatrix group this week reported a steep decline in revenues and a net loss for the first quarter of 2005.

Revenues for the quarter were $1.1 million, down from $17.6 million during the same quarter in 2004. Last year's figures included $17.3 million in deferred revenues from CombiMatrix's alliance with Roche.

R&D costs decreased slightly, to $1.1 million, from $1.4 million during last year's first quarter.

CombiMatrix's net loss for the quarter was $3.1 million, compared to a profit of $11.9 million during the same quarter in 2005, which was primarily driven by the recognition of the Roche contract revenues in that quarter.

As of March 31, CombiMatrix had $20.4 million in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments.

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.