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Promega, Benitec, Alnylam, Sigma-Aldrich, Universite de Montreal, Quark Pharmaceuticals, Mitsubishi, Opko Health

Promega Increases Stake in Benitec
Promega has taken an additional equity stake in Benitec, increasing its total ownership in the Australian expressed RNAi firm to 6.15 percent, Benitec said this week.
According to Benitec, Promega was issued roughly 1.8 million of its ordinary shares for $158,333.
“Promega is already one of our major shareholders and already holds a worldwide, non-exclusive license to make and sell … research products” based on Benitec’s core technology, Sue MacLeman, Benitec’s CEO, said in a statement. “We are delighted … to further strengthen this key relationship.”

Alnylam Presents Preclinical Data from Hypercholesterolemia Program
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has presented new preclinical data from its hypercholesterolemia program showing efficacy of an RNAi inhibitor of proprotein convertase subtilisn/kexin type 9 in non-human primates.
According to the company, the data, which were presented at the XVI International Symposium on Drugs Affecting Lipid Metabolism, included an in vivo demonstration that systemic administration of an RNAi drug could silence the PCSK9 gene as measured by circulating PCSK9 plasma levels by up to 70 percent.
Additional data showed that inhibition of the gene was associated with 40 to 60 percent reductions in LDL cholesterol, a 30 to 40 percent reduction in circulating apolipoprotein B levels, and an overall decreased ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol.

Sigma-Aldrich Licenses shRNA Libraries to Universite de Montreal
Sigma-Aldrich said last week that it has signed an agreement granting access to its Mission shRNA human and mouse libraries to the Institute of Research in Immunology and Cancer of the Universite de Montreal.
"We are eager to work with the Universite de Montreal to provide researchers access to the Sigma-Aldrich Mission RNAi portfolio of products and intellectual property," David Smoller, president of Sigma-Aldrich's Research Biotechnology business unit, said in a statement.
Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Quark to Receive Milestone Payment from Mitsubishi
Quark Pharmaceuticals said this week that it will receive an undisclosed milestone payment from Japanese drug firm Mitsubishi Pharma under the companies’ ongoing collaboration.
According to Quark, the milestone was triggered by Mitsubishi’s initiation of screening for small-molecule inhibitors of target genes discovered by Quark.

Opko Acquires Non-RNAi Dry Eye Drug Candidate
Opko Health said this week that it has acquired the exclusive, worldwide rights to a non-RNAi topical compound for the treatment of dry eye.
The drug, civamide, is currently in phase III trials as a treatment for pain, Opko said.
Specific terms of the deal for the compound were not disclosed.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.