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Sirna, VLAB RNAi Forum, Qiagen, and Isis


Sirna to Manufacture Archemix Drug Candidate

Sirna Therapeutics has signed on to manufacture for Archemix the antithrombin aptamer ARC183, the companies said this week.

ARC183 is Archemix’s first drug development candidate and is being tested for use as an anti- coagulant/anti-thrombotic in coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Under the arrangement, Sirna will make and supply Archemix with the agent for use in its development efforts through phase IIa clinical trials.

Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“This collaboration is consistent with our strategy of forming process development and manufacturing agreements ... to generate revenues and maintain our leadership in the nucleic acid chemistry field,” Sirna president and CEO Howard Robin said in a statement.

Sirna recently concluded a deal to manufacture the anti-cancer drug candidate GRN163 for Geron.

VLAB to Hold RNAi Forum Next Month

The MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) has scheduled for November a forum that will explore the use of RNAi for drug discovery and development.

The forum will be moderated by Jonathan MacQuitty, president of venture capital firm Abingworth Management, a major Alnylam investor. Christoph Westphal, Polaris Ventures general partner and Alnylam co-founder and founding CEO, will speak on RNAi and the difficulties in starting a company based on a fledgling technology.

A panel discussion — featuring RNAi pioneer Andrew Fire, now with the Stanford School of Medicine, and Nassim Usman, CSO of Sirna Therapeutics — will focus on RNAi’s potential and the ability of existing companies in the field to succeed.

The VLAB meeting will be held on Nov. 18 between 6 pm and 8:30 pm.

Details about the event can be found at

Qiagen Reports Rise in Q3 Revenues, Income

Qiagen reported revenues of $90.4 million for the third quarter of 2003 today, up from $76.9 million for the same period last year.

The Venlo, Netherlands-based nucleic acid technology company’s net income for the quarter rose to $11.8 million, compared to $7.3 million in the third quarter of 2002. Qiagen’s R&D expenses were nearly flat at $7.5 million, compared to $7.3 million for the same period last year.

Metin Colpan, the company’s CEO, attributed the success in the quarter to the “ongoing shift in focus of academic and industrial R&D to functional genomics and clinical research,” and said “the recently observed increases in pharmaceutical and biotech research spending allow us to look optimistically into 2004.”

As of Sept. 30, Qiagen had $75.3 million in cash and cash equivalents, compared to $44.9 million for the same period last year.

Isis Provides Update on Phase II Antisense Drugs for Arthritis, Hepatitis C

Isis Pharmaceuticals announced this week positive phase II data on two of its antisense drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and hepatitis C.

According to the company, a 20-patient phase IIa study of ISIS 104838 showed that the drug accumulated in synovial tissue in a dose-dependent manner, reducing TNF-alpha mRNA levels in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The company also said that subcutaneous administration of the drug was as effective as intravenous administration, and that patients treated with the higher 300mg dose of ISIS 104838 experienced a greater reduction in swollen and tender joints than patients receiving placebo.

These data were presented on Oct. 25 at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

Isis also said that in a phase II trial of ISIS 14803, the drug was able to produce up to a 3.8 log dose-dependent reduction in plasma virus levels in patients with hepatitis C. A majority of the 43 patients in the trial, said the company, were hepatitis C genotype 1.

Two doses and two treatment schedules were evaluated in the trial, said Isis. Initially, all patients received 2.5 mg per kg of ISIS 14803 three times a week for two weeks. Patients then were given either 4 mg per kg or 6 mg per kg doses of the drug intravenously once or twice weekly for 10 weeks.

Five of 17 patients receiving the 6mg per kg dose experienced viral titer reductions of between 1 and 3.8 logs. Three experienced a greater than 3 log reduction. Based on these findings, the company said, a 6mg per kg dose will be evaluated in future trials.

Isis noted that most of the patients in the trial were HCV genotype 1.

These data were presented on Oct. 25 at annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.