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Santaris, Silence Therapeutics, Oxford, Sigma, Alnylam

Santaris Receives Grant to Develop miRNA-Targeting Drug
Santaris Pharma said this week that it has received a €1.35 million ($1.8 million) grant from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation to develop SPC3649, a locked nucleic acid-based drug that targets the microRNA miR-122.
Although Santaris has used the LNA agent to cut cholesterol levels in animal models, the company has said it expects to develop it as a treatment for hepatitis C (see RNAi News, 5/24/2007).
Santaris said this is the second such grant it has received. In 2006, the ATF awarded the company a €1.3 million grant to fund its miRNA therapeutics programs.

Silence Reports Higher Revenues, Costs in 2006
Silence Therapeutics, formerly SR Pharma, last week reported its financial results for 2006, the first full year for which its finances are being reported since it acquired German RNAi drugs shop Atugen (see RNAi News 7/29/2005).
Silence’s revenues in 2006 climbed to ₤1.95 million ($4 million) from ₤510,000 the year before, a jump largely due to money received through the company’s licensing arrangement with Quark Pharmaceuticals (see RNAi News, 3/18/2005).
Research and development spending in 2006 nearly doubled to ₤3.19 million from ₤1.66 million the year before, while administrative costs jumped to ₤3.03 million from ₤2.75 million. Silence noted that, having acquired Atugen in the middle of 2005, figures from that year only include six months of costs related to its German operations.
In 2006, Silence’s net loss was ₤4.27 million, compared with ₤3.9 million in 2005, and includes a number of non-cash items including depreciation and amortization.
As of Dec. 31, 2006, Silence had cash and cash equivalents totaling ₤8.8 million.

Oxford, Sigma Lentivirus Technology Licensed to US Biotech
Oxford BioMedica and Sigma-Aldrich said this week that they have signed a deal providing access to their LentiVector gene-delivery technology to an undisclosed, US-based biotech firm.
Additional terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
Sigma-Aldrich is the exclusive licensee of the lentiviral technology, which was developed by Oxford BioMedica, for research applications.

Alnylam Says Nasdaq Compliance Regained Following ‘Inadvertent’ Stock Option Grant
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals last week said that it had been temporarily out of compliance with a Nasdaq exchange audit committee independence listing requirement.
According to Alnylam, it has since regained compliance and is not required to make changes to the composition of its audit committee.
The company said it was notified about the issue in a letter from Nasdaq regarding an inadvertent stock option grant by Alnylam to a member of its audit committee.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.