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Sirna, Dharmacon, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, CytRx, CombiMatrix, System Biosciences, Invitrogen, Qiagen, Epigenomics, RNAture


Sirna Plans Phase I Trial of Hep C Drug for Mid-2006

Sirna Therapeutics is in the process of planning primate studies of several formulations of siRNA-based drugs for hepatitis C, and expects to have chosen a candidate for phase I testing by mid-2006, according to President and CEO Howard Robin.

In January, former Sirna COO Nassim Usman told RNAi News that the company planned to test an HCV drug candidate in infected chimps, but would do so in collaboration with a partner given the difficulty of getting access to these animals.

However, Robin told RNAi News this week that the company has decided instead to conduct primate studies without a partner in a marmoset model of hepatitis C being provided by the University of Texas.

"They are a lot easier to access than chimps, and that's why we're moving forward [in this preclinical work] on our own," he said.

Dharmacon Inks Deal for siRNA Library with Millennium

Dharmacon said this week that it has signed an agreement to provide Millennium Pharmaceuticals with a genome-wide siRNA library covering about 22,000 human genes.

The deal marks the biggest deal for an siRNA collection that Dharmacon has ever signed.

Specific terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

CytRx Small Molecule ALS Drug Given Orphan Drug Status

CytRx said this week that its phase I small-molecule treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, arimoclomol, has been given orphan drug status by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The company said it expects to begin a phase II trial of the drug this quarter.

CombiMatrix Microarray Products to
Be Sold In Japan by Inter Medical

CombiMatrix said this week that it has signed a non-exclusive deal under which its CustomArray microarray products will be marketed, sold, and serviced in Japan by Inter Medical.

Specific terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

System Biosciences' siRNA Libraries to
Be Made Available to Japanese Consortium

System Biosciences said this week that its siRNA libraries targeting the entire human and mouse genomes will be made available to a consortium of Japanese researchers organized by partner B-Bridge International.

The consortium consists of research labs from several institutes, including Osaka University, Nagoya University, the Japanese National Cancer Center, Tokyo Medical University, Ehime University, the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, and the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Sciences, SBI said. B-Bridge facilitates and manages this exchange by providing research tools, analysis, and experimental data.

Terms of the arrangement between SBI and B-Bridge were not disclosed.

Invitrogen Posts Higher Q1 Revenues, Earnings

Invitrogen last week reported a 10-percent increase in revenues and quadrupled earnings for the first quarter of 2005.

Revenues for the quarter totaled $277.1 million, up from $251.3 million during the year-ago period. Both Invitrogen's BioDiscovery and BioProduction segments contributed to this increase.

Research and development expenses increased to $21.2 million from $15.7 million during the first quarter of 2004.

The company's net income increased to $47.1 million, or $.82 per share, from $10.5 million, or $.19 per share, during last year's first quarter. Included in this quarter's income is a gain of $21 million related to the hedging activity associated with Invitrogen's acquisition of Dynal.

As of March 31, Invitrogen had $1 billion in cash and investments.

Qiagen Inks Licensing, OEM Deal for DNA
Methylation Analysis with Epigenomics …

Qiagen and Epigenomics have signed a licensing and OEM deal to develop products to analyze DNA methylation, the companies said this week.

Under the agreement, Venlo, the Netherlands-based Qiagen exclusively licensed Epigenomics' bisulfite DNA treatment technology as well as its MethyLight assay technology to develop products for research purposes. In exchange, Berlin-based Epigenomics will receive up-front technology access and licensing fees, as well as royalties on the sales of research products.

For diagnostic purposes, Qiagen will market and sell products containing the bisulfite technology for use with Epigenomics' technologies and products. Under an OEM agreement, Qiagen will also provide Epigenomics with kit components for molecular diagnostic products.

All products developed under the agreement will be co-branded, and the first products are expected in 2006.

… And Acquires RNAture's Nucleic Acid Purification Products

Qiagen said this week that it has acquired the worldwide exclusive rights and licenses to manufacture and market all of RNAture's nucleic acid isolation products from its parent company, Hitachi Chemical Research Center.

Pursuant to the companies' agreement Hitachi Chemical Research will transfer all current commercial operations to Qiagen. Additional terms were not disclosed. Qiagen said it does not expect the transaction to have a material impact on its financial outlook for 2005.

According to Qiagen, RNAture's product portfolio focuses on mRNA isolation products and comprises solutions for the capture of cellular poly(A)+ RNA in the wells of specially treated microplates, and includes products marketed under the GenePlate name.

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.