Sigma-Aldrich has signed a series of agreements that expand its position in the area of RNA Interference (RNAi). Sigma-Aldrich and Benitec Ltd., have signed two major agreements, one in which Sigma-Aldrich acquires an equity stake in Benitec, and one in which Sigma-Aldrich is granted the exclusive license to Benitec's intellectual property for RNAi in the field of research reagents.
Sigma-Aldrich also has an agreement with Oxford BioMedica, to acquire an equity stake in that company and exclusive access to key intellectual property pertaining to the use of Lentivirus based vector systems. These agreements mark the latest of a number of affiliations that are expected to make Sigma-Aldrich a major force in RNAi.
"Signing of these agreements with two leading companies in RNAi is a significant milestone for Sigma-Aldrich," stated Shaf Yousaf, President of Sigma-Aldrich's Research Biotechnology Business Unit.
"RNAi based therapeutics hold tremendous potential and both Benitec and Oxford BioMedica are among the leaders in this area. These agreements further illustrate Sigma-Aldrich's commitment to being a leader in the field of RNA Interference and greatly strengthen its already strong portfolio of intellectual property in RNAi.
Furthermore, access to the know-how of these two world-class companies and their proprietary technologies will accelerate our own R&D program directed towards the development of innovative tools and services for the biopharmaceutical industry."
The Benitec patents represent key intellectual property in the practice of DNA-based RNAi. Under the terms of the agreement, Sigma-Aldrich will receive an exclusive license to this technology for research and commercialization of research based products.
Additionally, Sigma-Aldrich has the exclusive right to issue sub-licenses to the Benitec intellectual property in that field. In return, Sigma-Aldrich will make an initial payment, annual minimum royalties, and continuing royalties on product sales and sub-licensee revenue.
Sigma-Aldrich also receives a non-exclusive license in the research reagent field to patents co-owned by Benitec and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia for its solely owned commercial rights to RNAi in "non-human applications," including its use in plants, animals, and insects.
Benitec retains all of its existing rights to human therapeutics and diagnostics including the ability to enter into commercialization and drug discovery agreements with pharmaceutical partners.
The Oxford BioMedica patents focus on the use of Lentiviral vectors as delivery systems. These so-called 'minimal vectors', which contain only the few viral components required for efficient gene delivery, deliver genes to a wide range of dividing and non-dividing cells, including neurons. Oxford BioMedica has pending and granted patents on the technology providing a sound basis for freedom-to-operate in this field.
Under the terms of the agreement, Sigma-Aldrich will receive a license to commercialize this technology as well as make and distribute products that utilize it. Sigma-Aldrich also has the exclusive right to issue sub-licenses to this intellectual property, in addition to a right of first refusal to negotiate a license to develop a new range of products based on Oxford BioMedica's EIAV-based LentiVector technology.
In exchange, Oxford BioMedica will receive an upfront payment, annual minimum payments and royalties on sales. Sigma-Aldrich has also committed to an equity investment in Oxford BioMedica, to be completed before January 31, 2006.