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MDRNA to buy Cequent Pharmaceuticals

BY Alaric DeArment

BOTHELL, Wash. MDRNA plans to buy Cambridge, Mass.-based Cequent Pharmaceuticals for $46 million, the biotech company announced Thursday. MDRNA expects the acquisition to be complete in early July.

Both companies develop drugs using RNA interference, or RNAi, a technology that allows genes to be switched on and off in order to treat such diseases as cancer. MDRNA, based in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, Wash., said the combined company would have multiple RNAi drug-discovery platforms for creating drugs administered by mouth, injection and other means. One product in Cequent’s pipeline is a drug that will soon begin early-stage clinical trials as a treatment for familial adenomatous polyposis, a genetic disorder that is a precursor to colon cancer.

“We anticipate that this transaction will accelerate the development of the most promising products of both companies,” MDRNA board chairman Bruce Thaw said. “We believe that the combined company will be in a strong position to advance multiple RNAi drug-discovery platforms, establish premier R&D partnerships with large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and accelerate RNAi-based therapeutics to patients in need.”

MDRNA president and CEO J. Michael French will remain as leader of the combined company, which will be headquartered in Bothell. Cequent president and CEO Peter Parker will serve as chairman of the board of directors.

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Lilly’s Gemzar patent upheld

BY Alaric DeArment

INDIANAPOLIS A court has upheld Eli Lilly’s patent on an injected drug for treating cancer, the drug maker announced Thursday.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana upheld the validity of Lilly’s compound patent on Gemzar (gemcitabine hydrochloride), maintaining the company’s U.S. exclusivity for the drug through Nov. 15, blocking Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ attempt to market a generic version.

A second patent for the drug, which would have expired in 2013 and covered the drug’s Food and Drug Administration-approved uses, was ruled invalid by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in a separate case. Because Lilly has appealed the Michigan court’s decision, the Indiana court ruled that Lilly could not enforce the 2013 patent in the Indiana case.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling upholding the validity of Gemzar’s compound patent and remain optimistic that a successful appeal of the Michigan decision on the Gemzar method-of-use patent will retain U.S. exclusivity for Gemzar into 2013,” Lilly SVP and general counsel Robert Armitage said. “Protection of intellectual property rights is extremely important to the biopharmaceutical industry and the physicians and patients we serve, as these rights help support the development of the next generation of innovative medicines to treat unmet medical needs.”

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Walgreens specialty pharmacy to share its space in San Francisco

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN FRANCISCO Walgreens plans to share some of the space for its specialty pharmacy in San Francisco’s Castro district with a local museum, according to published reports.

The Bay Area Reporter, a gay and lesbian newspaper, reported Thursday that Walgreens would expand its specialty pharmacy into one-third of a former laundromat next door while leasing the other two-thirds to the GLBT Historical Society for five years at a reduced rent rate. The museum plans to open in June.

According to the article, Walgreens will pay for the remodeling of the space and seek city permits while using its third of the space for infusion therapy. The pharmacy originally had planned to take over the entire space, but the city government declined to give it a permit, and local business had complained that it would give the pharmacy too large a footprint in the neighborhood.

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