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Sirna Announces New Drug-Development Programs, Raises Cash Through Warrant Exercise

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Sirna Therapeutics reported this week two new additions to its line up of RNAi-based therapeutic development programs: asthma and diabetes.

The announcement comes as Sirna continues working to develop siRNAs as treatments for age-related macular degeneration, hepatitis C, and Huntington’s disease. The company also recently formed a dermatology unit to develop an RNA-based agent for permanent hair removal (see RNAi News, 12/10/2004), and has an ongoing collaboration with Eli Lilly to develop siRNAs against undisclosed oncology targets (see RNAi News, 1/30/2004).

In the asthma program, Sirna said it is targeting the key Th2 cytokines that play a role in inflammation and bronchoconstriction. According to the company, preclinical animal studies conducted in collaboration with the National Jewish Medical and Research Center indicate that chemically modified, systemically delivered siRNAs were able to significantly reduce airway hyperresponsiveness.

Following additional preclinical work, Sirna anticipates beginning human trials of an RNAi-based asthma treatment in 2006.

In the diabetes program, Sirna is targeting PTP-1B, an intracellular cytoplasmic protein linked to insulin resistance. Preclinical work indicates that systemically administered siRNAs at a dose of 30 mg/kg is able to reduce PTP-1B by 72 percent, said Sirna.

“We expect that after conducting additional studies to optimize siRNA chemistry and delivery efficiency, we will be able to initiate clinical trials in 2007,” Roberto Guerciolini, senior vice president and CMO of Sirna, said in a statement.

According to Howard Robin, president and CEO of Sirna, the two new disease targets will be outlined during his presentation on Jan. 11 at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

Robin’s presentation is scheduled for 10 a.m. PST.

Earlier this week, Sirna reported that it had raised $6.8 million through the exercise of 2.7 million warrants by shareholders Sprout Group, Venrock Associates, Oxford Bioscience Partners, and Granite Global Ventures.

The funds, Sirna said, will be used to advance its “RNAi research, development, and clinical programs … as well as [fund] the opportunity to expand into new development opportunities.”

According to Sirna, the shareholders “exercised 2.7 million warrants and received 2.7 million common stock shares representing an approximate 7 percent increase in issued and outstanding shares of the company. The original warrants allowed for cash or net exercise and had a five-year term with over three years remaining before they would have expired. Because each of the original warrants was exchanged for shorter term cash-only warrants, the warrantholders were also issued 1.1 new warrants with a five-year term. These additional new warrants are exercisable in cash or by net exercise and have an exercise price of $3.85 per share, subject to downward adjustment” under certain circumstances.

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