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Quark Biotech, Galadeno, Celera, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Small Business Innovation Research, ProQinase, Antibodies by Design, CytRx

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Quark Says AMD Target Implicated in
Smoking-Induced Pulmonary Injury

Quark Biotech said last week that data from a company collaborator indicates that the hypoxia inducible gene RTP801, which the company is targeting in an RNAi program for age-related macular degeneration (see RNAi News, 3/18/2005), is associated with cigarette smoking-induced pulmonary injury and inflammation.

The data came from experiments conducted by Rubin Tuder, associate professor of pathology and director of cardiopulmonary pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"We are developing RNAi-based drugs based on RTP801 for a number of indications, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," Daniel Zurr, CEO of Quark, said in a statement. "We are excited about these results showing its involvement in lung function."


Galadeno, Celera Ink Gene Function Analysis Deal

Galapagos said this week that its Galadeno services division would provide services and reagents to Celera Genomics for analyzing gene function in human cells.

Under the terms of the services agreement, Galadeno will provide technology and adenoviral reagents that will enable Celera to validate potential drug targets. Galadeno will construct recombinant adenoviruses containing genes selected by Celera. The viruses will be used to introduce the genes into various cell types to evaluate their function within biological pathways, Galapagos said.

Galadeno will receive payments "related to its services and technology," Galapagos said, but further financial details were not disclosed.


BIO Opposes Limit on VC Backing for SBIR Grantees

Representatives from the Biotechnology Industry Organization are calling for the Small Business Administration to revise its current interpretation of eligibility standards for Small Business Innovation Research grants.

Late last year, SBA revised its guidelines to refuse eligibility to small companies that are 51-percent owned by venture capital firms.

Jim Greenwood, president of BIO, issued a statement last week calling for the SBA to "correct" this "misinterpretion" of eligibility standards.

"Most small and emerging biotechnology companies, which are years away from revenue-generating products, must look to the venture capital community for investments to fund the very high-cost preclinical and clinical research," Greenwood said. "Prior to the new interpretation, these companies used SBIR grants to validate the potential of their research as they raised critical start-up investment funds."

Greenwood added, "It is ironic that the SBA's rulings are actually squelching the very research that the [SBIR] law sought to stimulate when it was initially passed."

Morrie Ruffin, vice president of business development for BIO, is scheduled to testify on behalf of the organization at a hearing SBA is holding on the SBIR eligibility issue later today.

Greenwood supported legislation introduced in the US House of Representatives by Sam Graves (R-MO) and in the Senate by Kit Bond (R-MO) to revisit the eligibility requirements. "We urge members of Congress to support this new legislation," Greenwood said.


German Industry Consortium Wins $2.5 Million
To Develop Adenoviral siRNA Kinome Chip

ProQinase, the NMI Natural and Medical Sciences Institute, and Antibodies by Design, all based in Germany, have received a three-year, €2 million ($2.45 million) grant from the German government to develop an adenoviral siRNA kinome chip, the partners said last week.

The chip will enable scientists to inhibit all human protein kinases in parallel by RNA interference.

Under the collaboration, Antibodies by Design, a division of Munich-based MorphoSys, will generate recombinant antibodies against up to 250 protein kinases. NMI, a non-profit contractor based at the University of T bingen, together with MorphoSys, will create shRNA vectors. ProQinase, a division of KTB Tumorforschungs GmbH at the Tumor Biology Center in Freiburg, will use the antibodies to confirm deactivation of the protein kinases by the shRNA vectors. NMI will also combine all the components into a chip format.

NMI said it has filed for a patent protecting the production and use of the chip with the German Patent Office.


CytRx Provides Additional Info on
ALS Small Molecule Drug to FDA

CytRx said this week that it has submitted a reply to a US Food and Drug Administration request for additional information related to the company's investigational new drug application for the investigational lateral sclerosis drug arimoclomol.

According to CytRx, receipt of the reply by the FDA will trigger a 30-day waiting period before a phase I trial of the small-molecule drug can begin. The company said it expects the study to start after the second quarter, pending a favorable response from the FDA.

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The Scan

Plan Rebuffed

The Associated Press reports China has rejected the World Health Organization's proposal to include the lab-leak theory in the next phase of its investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

Opossum Change

Researchers from Riken have used CRISPR to edit marsupial genomes, as Technology Review reports.

In the Ice

Cosmos magazine reports that researchers have uncovered more than two dozen ancient viruses in a Tibetan glacier.

Nature Papers Present Method to Uncover Differential RNA Modifications, Neutrophils in Innate Immune Response

In Nature this week: computational approach to identifying differential RNA modifications, and more.