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Rosetta, Ben Gurion University, Alnylam, Medtronic, Silence, Quark

Rosetta, Ben Gurion University to Develop miRNA-Targeting Drugs
Rosetta Genomics said this week that it has formed a collaboration with Israel’s Ben Gurion University to develop microRNA-targeting therapeutics against several viruses including the Epstein-Barr virus and herpes simplex viruses.
“Because some viruses encode microRNAs, we believe the silencing of a viral microRNA may form the basis for a new class of drugs to treat infectious diseases,” Zvi Bentwich, Rosetta’s CSO, said in a statement. “We have discovered microRNAs encoded in Epstein-Barr virus and have proven their expression in EBV-infected cell lines. As proof of concept, we have demonstrated in vitro that the inhibition of these EBV microRNAs inhibits viral replication."
Specific terms of the alliance were not disclosed.

Alnylam, Medtronic to Focus on Huntington’s under Revised Collaboration
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Medtronic have advanced their collaboration to develop RNAi drug/delivery device combinations for neurodegenerative diseases to focus on Huntington’s disease, the companies said this week.
The companies first began working together in early 2005 to develop therapies for disorders such as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease (see RNAi News, 2/11/2005).
That relationship, which was set to expire at the beginning of this month, will now focus on Huntington’s disease based on positive preclinical data generated through the initial technology development phase of the alliance, the companies said.
The Huntington’s disease therapy is expected to consist of an RNAi therapeutic targeting the Huntington's disease gene that will be delivered by Medtronic's implantable infusion pump. The companies may still collaborate on the development of similar systems for other neurodegenerative diseases, they noted.
Alnylam and Medtronic’s arrangement has also been revised to give Alnylam the opportunity to take part in development of therapeutic systems up through product launch in the US. Medtronic will be responsible for commercialization in the US, as well as all clinical development and commercialization efforts in Europe.
Under the original deal, Medtronic was to have handled all late-stage clinical development.

Silence, Quark Expand Technology Licensing Arrangement
Silence Therapeutics and Quark Pharmaceuticals said this week that they have expanded their ongoing technology licensing arrangement.
Under the terms of the deal, Quark received non-exclusive licenses to develop RNAi drug molecules against three specific, undisclosed targets based on Silence’s proprietary AtuRNAi technology, which involves chemically stabilized and blunt-ended siRNAs.
The companies first began working together in 2005 when Quark signed an option and license agreement to use Silence’s technology. The first drug candidate to come out of that partnership, RTP801i-14, was licensed to Pfizer last year (see RNAi News, 9/28/2006).

Alnylam Says European Tuschl-2 Patent Cleared for Issuance
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has received notification from the European Patent Office that a key patent within the Tuschl-2 patent estate has been cleared for issuance.
According to the company, the patent is expected to be granted within the next six months.
The soon-to-be-granted patent, EP 1407044, covers compositions, methods, and uses of siRNAs, Alnylam said, adding that an Australian counterpart to the intellectual property was recently granted.