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RXi and Invitrogen: All quiet on the RNAi front
CARLSBAD, Calif.-Just as RXi Pharmaceutical filed an S-1 registration statement with the SEC and went into the required silent period, the company and Invitrogen announced that they have entered into an agreement for RXi to license on an exclusive basis second-generation RNAi technology from Invitrogen for designated target genes in all human therapeutic categories. RXi's initial focus is on the treatment of neurological diseases, metabolic diseases and cancer.
Until now, RXi has been a majority-owned subsidiary of CytRx Corp. headed by Dr. Tod Woolf as president and CEO. Dr. Woolf co-invented and commercialized Stealth RNAi, a widely used second-generation RNAi research product, and later sold his company Sequitur, where Stealth originated, to Invitrogen. Now, in effect, RXi has reacquired via the licensing agreement with Invitrogen the rights to the technology it sold. "Licensing this broad technology from Invitrogen is part of our strategy to continually enhance our proprietary rxRNA compounds for therapeutic applications," Dr. Woolf said before the quiet period began.
Though not constrained from speaking, Invitrogen was also close-mouthed about the agreement, stating though a spokesperson that "Terms of the agreement are not sharable."
Invitrogen's patent applications that are part of this agreement cover Stealth and other proprietary technologies related to enhanced configurations of chemically modified double-stranded RNA within specific applications and therapeutics.
"We have provided Stealth technology in a variety of different formats, both pre-designed and custom-designed molecules," says Amy Butler, Invitrogen vice president of gene expression profiling. She notes that Invitrogen has undertaken additional purification steps so that synthetic molecules can be used in vivo. Customers are using Stealth technology in preliminary experiments with a view to going to the clinic.
"Currently Invitrogen Stealth RNAi synthetic duplexes are widely used for RNAi research across both in vitro and in vivo applications due to their specificity, efficacy and stability," she notes. "We see the use of our Stealth RNAi technology in therapeutics as a natural next step in Invitrogen's efforts to be at the cutting edge of in vivo gene regulation." In this regard, the company's relationship with RXi can extend its reach, Butler notes.
"In general," Butler adds, "Invitrogen is very focused on the 'R' in R&D," though parts of the company works with scientists in discovery and development in virtually all aspects of the workflow, including functional genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and cell biology. "A portion of our business is gene expression and profiling, qPCR, microarrays, epigenetics and RNAi. Although traditionally we have been focused on research markets, our scientists now collaborate in diagnostics and therapeutics, where we continue to look for partners who can leverage our tools in these areas because we see perfect synergies in these relationships."
Invitrogen, based here, conducts business in more than 70 countries around the world. It employs approximately 4,700 scientists and other professionals around the world and had revenues of approximately $1.15 billion in 2006.