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Opko to Buy Non-RNAi Drug Assets from Schering-Plough

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Opko Health this week said that it has agreed to acquire from Schering-Plough assets relating to a neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist program, marking Opko's latest step away from the RNAi drugs space.

According to Opko, Schering-Plough is making the divestiture, which includes the phase II chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting prophylactic rolapitant, in order to meet certain requirements for its expected merger with Merck.

"We are pleased to acquire these assets from Schering-Plough," Opko Chairman and CEO Phillip Frost said in a statement. "They will fit in well with our strategy to create a portfolio of important products that will bring significant value to patients and shareholders."

Although Opko had at one time been a high-profile player in the RNAi drugs space with its acquisition of Acuity Pharmaceuticals and its siRNA-based treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (see RNAi News, 3/29/2007), the failure of that drug in a phase III trial (see RNAi News, 3/12/2009) and Opko's failure to disclose work on other RNAi candidates has raised questions about its interest in the gene-silencing technology.

Since then, the company has made a number of investments in non-RNAi companies and technologies (see RNAi News, 6/25/2009), most recently buying Chilean pharmaceutical firm Pharma Genexx (see RNAi News, 10/8/2009).

Nonetheless, the company continues to list RNAi as an area of interest on its corporate website.

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