Oxford BioMedica has announced that it has signed a license agreement with the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the University of Massachusetts Medical School that grants the Company rights to key RNA interference (RNAi) technology invented by Nobel Prize-winning scientists Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, and Craig C. Mello, PhD.
The rights granted are exclusive for RNAi gene silencing using lentiviral vector technology for human gene therapy applications, including Oxford BioMedica’s proprietary LentiVector system.
Under the terms of the license agreement Oxford BioMedica will pay an upfront payment, milestone payments and royalties on sales. These rights will run concurrently with the rights of the existing licensees of the RNAi technology. Further details were not disclosed.
The concept of gene silencing in mammalian cells using short pieces of RNA was first published by Fire and Mello and colleagues in 1998 (see Nature volume 391, February 19, 1998). For this ground-breaking work they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006.
The discovery of RNAi has created a new paradigm of drug discovery and potential therapeutics. Lentiviral vectors are already used extensively in drug discovery research for delivery of RNAi to a range of different cell types. Oxford BioMedica has licensed its LentiVector patents for research use in this area to many companies together with its corporate partner Sigma Aldrich.
In a separate agreement, also announced, the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the University of Massachusetts have agreed to subscribe for a total of 2,369,818 ordinary shares of 1p each at £0.24 per share.
Application will be made to the United Kingdom Listing Authority ('UKLA') for the newly issued ordinary shares in Oxford BioMedica to be admitted to the Official List of the UKLA and to the London Stock Exchange plc for admission to trading on its market for listed securities. The shares are expected to commence trading on 10 January 2008.
Professor Alan Kingsman, Chief Executive of Oxford BioMedica, commented: “There is growing acceptance that to develop RNAi therapeutics, an effective delivery system is essential and increasingly lentiviral vectors are becoming the system of choice for this purpose. Oxford BioMedica, with its broad LentiVector patent portfolio and its expertise in developing LentiVector-based products, is therefore well positioned to develop a range of novel RNAi therapeutics either independently or in collaboration with other companies.”