Accelerator Bankrolls New Company, Mirina, To Develop MicroRNA-Blocking Drugs

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or more potent than standard drugs—meaning they could do a better job at a lower dose. Mirina hasn’t settled on which diseases to treat first, although cancer, infectious diseases, and metabolic disorders are all possibilities, Schubert says.

The deal came to Accelerator’s attention more than a year ago, through a tip from Hoekstra and Walt Mahoney, Nanogen’s vice president of R&D. The scientific literature then, and now, has been teeming with papers on the potential for microRNA drugs. While Accelerator combed through the intellectual property and negotiated deal terms, another microRNA company made headlines. Last September, Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) and Carlsbad, CA-based Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) made waves when they spun off some of their intellectual property into a microRNA joint venture called Regulus Therapeutics. Seven months later, Regulus scored a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline worth $20 million upfront to develop drugs aimed at microRNAs that play a role in inflammatory diseases.

Mirina will have the same kind of potential to do partnerships with big drug companies if it continues to advance, Weissman says.

The announcement of Mirina, the ninth company to emerge at Accelerator since its founding in 2003, represents the first time Accelerator has licensed technology from a publicly-traded corporation. It took more lawyering to make it happen than a deal with a university tech transfer office, but Weissman and Schubert insist it is worth the effort. “No one has enough money to pursue everything,” Schubert says, so a lot of companies have promising projects that end up sitting on the shelf, which could be put to the test at Accelerator.

As Nanogen CEO Howard Birndorf put it in a prepared statement, extending its microRNA technology to drugs “is in keeping with our mission to improve patient care, and will provide the company with new opportunities for revenues from non-competing markets.” That obviously beats sitting on a shelf, or possibly accumulating a lot of red ink on Nanogen’s quarterly income statement.

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