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RXi, Invitrogen, Rosetta Genomics, Exiqon, Applied Biosystems

RXi Acquires Therapeutic Rights to Invitrogen’s Stealth RNAi Technology
RXi Pharmaceuticals, the RNAi drugs subsidiary of CytRx, has acquired the human therapeutic rights to a second-generation RNAi technology from Invitrogen, the companies said this week.
Under the deal, RXi will have exclusive access to Invitrogen’s Stealth and other proprietary technologies related to configurations of chemically modified dsRNA for use against designated target genes. Additional terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
"Currently Invitrogen Stealth RNAi synthetic duplexes are widely used for RNAi research across both in vitro and in vivo applications, “ Amy Butler, Invitrogen’s vice president of gene expression profiling, said in a statement. "We see the use of our Stealth RNAi technology in therapeutics as a natural next step in Invitrogen's efforts to be at the cutting edge of in vivo gene regulation."
Invitrogen acquired the Stealth technology when it bought RNAi reagent shop Sequitur in late 2003, quickly moving the technology into its research product lineup (see RNAi News, 11/7/2003).  
Work Sequitur had been conducting on the use of Stealth for therapeutic applications, however, was put on the backburner by Invitrogen. In October 2004, an Invitrogen official told RNAi News that the company was “in the process of working on a number of collaborations and trying to be testing Stealth’s full ability to be able to go [into] some therapeutic applications (see RNAi News, 10/1/2004).
Three years later, Invitrogen has found a home for the technology for use in human therapies in RXi, which already has experience with the technology through two of its senior executives: RXi President and CEO Tod Woolf was the founder and CEO of Sequitur, while RXi’s Vice President of Technology Development Dmitry Samarsky previously held business development positions with both Invitrogen and Sequitur.

Rosetta Begins In Vivo Testing of Liver Cancer Rx, Reports $2.2M Q3 Loss
Rosetta Genomics this week announced that it has begun in vivo studies of a microRNA-targeting liver cancer drug under development with Isis Pharmaceuticals.
“Out of hundreds of potential microRNAs screened and tested, eight have been identified to lead to a decrease in liver cancer cell growth when inhibited,” Rosetta said. “These microRNAs will be further tested during the in vivo studies.”
Rosetta also recently reported its third-quarter financial results, posting a net loss of $2.2 million, flat with last year’s third-quarter net loss, with no revenue reported for the three-month period ended Sept. 30.
The firm’s R&D expenses also were flat with the comparable period last year at $1.4 million.
“Our first microRNA-based diagnostic test, designed to differentiate squamous from non-squamous lung cancers, has successfully passed the prevalidation phase at Columbia University Medical Center, and we expect to launch the diagnostic in the first half of 2008,” Amir Avniel, president and CEO of Rosetta, said in a statement last week.
As reported by RNAi News, Rosetta expects to launch a total of three diagnostics next year including one for cancers of unknown primary origin (see RNAi News, 8/9/2007).
The company finished the quarter with $4.5 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Exiqon Licenses LNA Technology to Applied Biosystems for siRNA
Exiqon this week announced that it has licensed its locked nucleic acid technology to Applied Biosystems for use with siRNA for research applications.
“Exiqon does not currently have siRNA products, so we are please to have identified a market leader in the siRNA field to utilize our LNA technologies,” Exiqon President and CEO Lars Kongsbak said in a statement.
LNAs are a class of nucleic acid analogs in which the ribose ring is locked by a methylene bridge connecting the 2'-O atom with the 4'-O atom, features designed to increase affinity and stability. Exiqon holds the rights to the molecules for research applications, while Santaris Pharma exclusively owns the therapeutic rights.
Specific terms of the deal with Applied Biosystems were not disclosed.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.