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Zabecor, InteRNA, SIROCCO, Qiagen, Cellectricon

Zabecor IND for Asthma Drug Approved by FDA
Zabecor Pharmaceuticals said this week that its investigational new drug application for its siRNA-based asthma treatment has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The company did not indicate when a phase I study of the drug, called Excellair, would begin.
Excellair is an siRNA targeting the intracellular kinase Syk. The company had previously been expecting to start clinical testing of the drug by 2007 (see RNAi News, 6/8/2006).
Earlier this year, Zabecor formed a subsidiary called Biothorpe Pharmaceuticals to develop siRNAs, antisense compounds, and other molecular technologies as treatments for cancer (see RNAi News, 9/25/2008). 

InteRNA Joins SIROCCO, Will Focus on miRNA Profiling
InteRNA Technologies said last week that it has joined SIROCCO, a European Commission-funded consortium of RNAi and microRNA researchers.
As reported by RNAi News, SIROCCO — short for Silencing RNAs: Organizers and Coordinators of Complexity in Eukaryotic Organisms — is a four-year project that aims to “characterize the full complement” of miRNAs and siRNAs in animals and plants (see RNAi News, 4/26/2007). The researchers in the group will use bioinformatics, genomics, biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics to “reveal how these RNAs are produced and processed, how they are transported, and how they target specific genes and RNAs for silencing,” according to the organization.
InteRNA said it will join for the consortium’s remaining two and a half years to focus on “discovery, data mining, and development of diagnostic miRNA and other small RNA profiles through next-generation sequencing in … diverse patient sample sets provided by consortium members and other sources.”

Qiagen's Q3 Revenues Rise 31 Percent, Pushing Up Earnings
Qiagen this week reported third-quarter revenue growth of 31 percent, with its molecular diagnostics products having a particularly strong quarter with 38 percent growth year over year.
The firm had total revenues of $230.8 million for the three-month period ended Sept. 30, compared to revenues of $176.6 million for the third quarter of 2007.
“Sales to customers in molecular diagnostics — approximately 45 percent of our sales — showed a very strong performance during the third quarter with a growth rate of approximately 38 percent over the comparable quarter 2007,” Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz said in a statement.
Qiagen posted a profit of $20.8 million, or $0.10 per share, compared to a net loss of $7.3 million, or $0.04 per share, for the third quarter of 2007. Both quarters contained various charges related to the acquisitions of Digene and eGene last year and Corbett Life Science, which was acquired this past summer.
Excluding certain of these charges, Qiagen’s adjusted net income for the quarter was $42.2 million, or $.21 per share, versus net income of $31.1 million, or $.17 per share, for the comparable quarter last year.
The firm’s research and development costs increased 35 percent to $24.1 million from $17.9 million, while its SG&A spending rose 14 percent to $77.1 million from $66.6 million.
Qiagen finished the quarter with $326 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Cellectricon Places Three RNAi Screening Systems
Cellectricon said this week that it has received its biggest single order to date, placing three of its Cellaxess HT automated workstations for high-throughput RNAi screening with an undisclosed US biotechnology company.
According to the company, the workstation enables reagent free delivery of siRNA and cDNA to a wide range of primary cells and cell lines with excellent efficiency and viability at a throughput of 50,000 wells per day.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.