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Tekmira Inks siRNA Delivery Tech Deal with Pfizer, Reports Higher Q4 Losses on R&D Spending

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This story has been updated to include details about Tekmira's fourth-quarter financial results.

By Doug Macron

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has formed a research collaboration with Pfizer, and separately reported a rise in fourth-quarter net loss on increased R&D spending.

Under the deal, the companies will evaluate the ability of Tekmira's proprietary stable nucleic acid-lipid particle, or SNALP, technology to deliver siRNAs provided by Pfizer. "Tekmira will be responsible for preparing the SNALP formulations and Pfizer will evaluate the formulations in preclinical models," they said.

During the company's fourth-quarter earnings conference call this week, President and CEO Mark Murray noted that while the financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, "we are being paid under this agreement.

"Our goal with this collaboration, as with many of our collaborations, is to evolve the research agreement into a larger agreement focused on us supporting our partner's product development," he added.

Addressing its fourth-quarter financial results, Tekmira reported a jump in its quarterly net loss to C$2.6 million ($2.57 million), or C$0.05 per share, from a year-ago loss of C$3.1 million, or C$0.07 per share.

According to the company, the increase was in part due to higher spending on its lead drug candidates, the phase I hypercholesterolemia drug ApoB SNALP and the preclinical cancer therapy PLK1 SNALP.

In January, Tekmira halted a phase I study of ApoB SNALP after a patient in the study experienced side effects associated with the drug's siRNA payload (see RNAi News, 1/14/2010).

To address the issue, the company developed a "more sophisticated screening assay" to identify better apoB-targeting siRNAs, Murray said earlier this year at the BIO-CEO and Investor conference held in New York. The company plans to initiate a phase I/II study of ApoB SNALP with an improved siRNA in the second half of this year (see RNAi News, 2/11/2010).

Meanwhile, Tekmira remains on track to file an investigational new drug application for PLK1 SNALP in the second half of the year, Murray noted this week.

Revenues in the quarter increased to C$4.5 million from C$3.1 million, reflecting payments received from collaborators including Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Roche.

"Revenue from our Roche collaboration increased throughout 2009 to (C$2.3 million) in the fourth quarter when we manufactured a number of batches of drug," Tekmira said in a filing with Canadian regulators. However, "we expect revenue to continue to fluctuate particularly due to the variability in demand for our manufacturing services and timing of milestone receipts."

Looking ahead, Tekmira said that it expects its research and development spending to increase over 2010 as PLK1 SNALP and the new ApoB SNALP formulation advance in the clinic.

Tekmira ended 2009 with cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments totaling about C$24.4 million.

"Tekmira believes that current funds on hand, plus expected interest income and funds that are contractually due from Alnylam, Roche, and other collaborators, will be sufficient to continue product development until mid-2011," the company said.

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