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OncoGenex, Protein Involved in System RNAi, AVI BioPharma, Psychiatric Genomics, CombiMatrix, Hybridon


OncoGenex, Isis Expand Antisense Partnership

OncoGenex Technologies and Isis Pharmaceuticals said this week that they have expanded their antisense drug development partnership to include the development of a second-generation anticancer drug candidate called OGX-225.

The preclinical compound, said the companies, is a bi-specific antisense inhibitor, which targets both insulin-like growth factor binding protein-5 (IGFBP-5) and insulin-like growth binding protein-2 (IGFBP-2). Both of these proteins are involved in the development of metastatic disease in hormone-regulated tumors such as those associated with prostate and breast cancer, they added.
This arrangement expands a partnership between the firms initiated in December 2001 to jointly develop the phase I cancer drug OGX-011, or Isis 112989.

Researchers Publish Paper on Protein Involved in System RNAi

Harvard University researchers Evan Feinberg and Craig Hunter published in this week’s issue of Science a paper detailing the role of the protein SID-1 in systemic RNAi in C. elegans. Feinberg and Hunter recently applied for a US patent on the protein and the gene that encodes it, among other things.

According to the researchers, they had previously identified a gene, called sid-1, that is essential for systemic but not cell-autonomous RNAi in C. elegans. Now, they have demonstrated that SID-1 is a multispan transmembrane protein that sensitizes Drosophila cells to soaking RNAi with a potency that was dependent on dsRNA length. The researchers added that SID-1 enables passive cellular uptake of dsRNA.

“Our data indicate that SID-1 enables transport of dsRNA in systemic RNAi,” they wrote, which “may have numerous functional genomic and therapeutic applications. Ectopic SID-1 expression may enable RNAi soaking screens in a number of experimental systems.

“Perhaps most important, sid-1 belongs to a previously uncharacterized gene family with members within the human and murine genomes. Should these genes function similarly to C. elegans sid-1, modulation of their activity could enable in vivo use of RNAi to regulate gene expression.”

AVI BioPharma Begins Phase Ib Trial of West Nile Drug

AVI BioPharma said this week that it has begun a phase Ib trial of its antisense drug AVI-4020 as a treatment for West Nile virus.

The study is being conducted in multiple sites in the US, said the company, and is designed to gather safety data needed to potentially design and conduct a pivotal trial during the 2004 West Nile virus season.

Psychiatric Genomics closes $6 million financing round

Psychiatric Genomics of Gaithersburg, Md., announced the closing of $6 million in financing from the Stanley Medical Research Institute of Bethesda, Md., a non-profit research organization.

Michael Knable, executive director of the SMRL, will join the Psychiatric Genomics board of directors in addition to the post he holds on the company’s scientific advisory board, Psychiatric Genomics said in a statement. Previously, SMRI invested $1 million in the company’s Series B financing in November 2002.

Psychiatric Genomics will use the funds to identify gene expression patterns for use in creating compounds to treat psychiatric diseases, the company said.

CombiMatrix Collaborates with University of Washington Researchers on Lymphoma Diagnostics

Acacia Research said that its CombiMatrix subsidiary is providing researchers from the University of Washington with its customizable microarray technology for their development of a test for diagnosing lymphoma.

The company said that the researchers, Daniel Sabath and Stephen Schmechel, have identified a subset of genes whose expression pattern can distinguish various types of lymphoma. Using CombiMatrix’s technology, they hope to develop nucleic acid-based tests to detect the cancer and predict clinical outcome.

Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Acacia added that CombiMatrix has also formed a partnership to develop and commercialize lymphoma diagnostic tests with RationalDiagnostics, a Seattle-based company founded by Sabath and Schmechel.

Hybridon says Immunomodulatory Oligos Block Asthma Development in Preclinical Studies

Hybridon said that recent data indicate its immunomodulatory oligonucleotides prevent the development of allergic asthma in mouse models.

The data were presented at the World Allergy Organization Congress — XVIII ICACI in Vancouver, Canada.

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.