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Santaris Pharma, Exiqon, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Alnylam, Takeda Pharmaceutical

Santaris Launches First Clinical Study of miRNA-Targeting Drug
Santaris Pharma announced this week that it has begun testing a microRNA-targeting treatment for hepatitis C in a phase I trial, making the company the first to test such a drug in humans.
The drug, called SPC3649, is essentially a locked nucleic acid targeting miR-122, a liver-expressed miRNA shown to play a role in HCV replication. The trial is set to enroll up to 48 healthy, male volunteers, and is being run in Denmark by PhaseOneTrials.
Santaris expects phase II studies in HCV-infected patients will begin next year.

Exiqon Forms Breast Cancer miRNA Collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center
Exiqon said this week that it has formed a collaboration with the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center to discover microRNA-based biomarkers for breast cancer.
The project focuses on identifying miRNA expression signatures associated with relapse and progression of breast cancer, as well as the development and validation of related diagnostic tools.
“This collaboration is another important step for Exiqon on our path to develop microRNA-based cancer diagnostics,” Exiqon President and CEO Lars Kongsbak said in a statement. “This agreement … will enable us to develop diagnostic products based on our [locked nucleic acid] technology to support major advances in cancer research and cancer diagnostics."
Exiqon is developing a number of diagnostics based on miRNAs, and expects its first to be available in the US this year (see RNAi News, 5/22/2008).

Isis Receives $4.6M Payment In Conjunction with Alnylam, Takeda Deal
Isis Pharmaceuticals said this week that it will receive $4.6 million from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in relation to the RNAi drug developer’s newly formed technology- and intellectual property-licensing deal with Takeda Pharmaceutical (see related story, this issue).
The payment from Alnylam represents payments Isis is due based on an IP cross-licensing agreement the companies signed in 2004 (see RNAi News, 3/19/2004). A portion of the IP licensed by Alnylam to Takeda is owned by Isis.
Isis said that it also stands to receive portions of future milestone and royalty payments Takeda pays to Alnylam.