Oxford BioMedica, a leading gene-based biopharmaceutical company, announced today that the Carnegie Institution for Science and UMass Medical School have been granted a key U.S. patent for the use of RNA interference (RNAi) to inhibit expression of a target gene in animal cells, including mammalian cells.
The patent issuance covers the delivery of RNAi using lentiviral vectors and, as a result, triggers a milestone payment by Oxford BioMedica for its exclusive rights to this technology. Lentiviral vectors are used extensively in drug discovery research for delivery of RNAi to a range of different cell types.
In January 2008, Oxford BioMedica signed a license agreement with Carnegie and UMMS that granted the Oxford BioMedica rights to key RNAi technology invented by Nobel Prize-winning scientists Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, while he was at the Carnegie Institution, and Craig C. Mello, PhD (right), a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and distinguished professor of molecular medicine and cell & developmental biology. Dr. Fire is now professor of pathology and genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The rights granted to Oxford BioMedica are exclusive for RNAi gene silencing using lentiviral vector technology for human gene therapy applications, including their proprietary “LentiVector” platform technology. Under the terms of the agreement, Oxford BioMedica paid an upfront payment to Carnegie and UMMS and will pay milestone payments, subject to the achievement of key events, and royalties on sales. Further details were not disclosed.
In a separate agreement, also signed in January 2008, Carnegie and UMMS agreed “to subscribe for a total of 7,910,796 ordinary shares of 1p each at £0.024665 per share,” according to the company. In making the announcement, John Dawson, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford BioMedica, said: “The LentiVector platform is protected by one of the broadest patent estates in the field. Delivering RNAi therapeutics using viral vectors is a promising approach and this key patent issue further strengthens our world-leading position in lentiviral vector-based gene therapy strategies.”
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