RNAi Roundup #2

It seemed about time to provide another summary of activity in the RNAi space: --Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, currently the partner of choice for RNAi delivery technology, outlined plans to go public. The Canadian biotech will start the process to be listed on the NASDAQ sometime in the next few months. --Tekmira has also expanded its relationship with Bristol-Myers Squibb. The big pharma firm will use siRNA molecules formulated using Tekmira’s stable nucleic acid lipid particle (SNALP) technology to turn off certain genes. In exchange for $3 million upfront, Tekmira will supply batches of stable nucleic acid lipid particles to BMS over the course of the four-year pact. Tekmira can use the data generated through the partnership to help advance its own drug discovery efforts. The influx of cash, along with revenue from its other partners (Alnylam, Roche, Merck, Hana Bioscience, and Aradigm), should provide enough money to get Tekmira through the second half of 2011. --Tekmira (a busy bee) also updated its pipeline in its first-quarter earnings, noting that Roche plans to file by the end of the year an investigational new drug application for its first siRNA product candidate formulated using Tekmira’s SNALP technology. The biotech expects to start a Phase I trial for its internal siRNA candidate, PLK1 SNALP, in the second half of the year. --Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and collaborators described the mechanism of action for delivering lipid particle-encapsulated siRNA to the liver. The biotech said the findings could help scientists target tissues and cell types beyond the liver, a critical hurdle to overcome if siRNA-based therapies are ever to be used for a wide range of diseases. To date, any clinical success with siRNA has been limited to directly-applied treatments (eye drops, topical application, or shunt for direct-delivery of siRNA) or liver diseases. For more detail on those challenges, see our story on siRNA delivery. --Dicerna Pharmaceuticals has a new CEO. Co-founder James C. Jenson has stepped down and Douglas M. Fambrough, also a founder, will leave his position at the venture capital firm Oxford Bioscience Partners to take on the role. --MDRNA continues to be strapped for cash. In its first-quarter earnings statement, the company said its proposed merger with Cequent came with a $3 million loan to fund its operations. MDRNA drew down $1 million of that sum last month, and has enough money left to fund operations through the third quarter. Once the deal is closed, it will have enough cash to fund the company through December.

Author: Lisa Jarvis

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