Dicerna Makes Progress

Just wanted to update you on my friends at Dicerna…from in vivo blog…

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dicerna Crashes RNAi Party

Life often imitates art, as the saying goes.

In “This Is Spinal Tap,” the classic rock and roll mockumentary chronicling the eponymous band, guitarist Nigel Tufnel famously brags that his amplifiers, unlike conventional ones that max out at a volume of ten, were specially designed to go “one louder.”

“These go to eleven,” he deadpans.

IN VIVO Blog has learned that in the world of RNA interference (RNAi), a new company aims to make some noise of its own not by going louder, but longer, while at the same time circumventing the IP barriers to entry in the exciting field.

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. is based on technology called Dicer substrate small interfering RNAs developed by co-founders John Rossi, PhD, from the City of Hope National Medical Center’s Beckman Research

Dr. Mark Behlke

Dr. Mark Behlke

Institute and Mark Behlke, MD, PhD, from Integrated DNA Technologies Inc. (IDT). Dicer substrate siRNAs differ from traditional siRNA employed by companies like Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Merck & Co.’s Sirna Therapeutics in that they are slightly longer oligonucleotides—between 26 and 30 base pairs (bp) versus 21bp for standard siRNA—which then get trimmed down to size once inside the cell. 

Dicerna is expected to announce its $13 million Series A, which will be led by Oxford Bioscience Partners, at some point in November.

Dicerna hopes that its longer molecules not only confer an IP workaround strategy in the hot area of RNA interference therapeutics, but also a pipeline of highly potent drug candidates that will pique the interest of quite a few Big Pharma that have been so far left out of the increasingly expensive but important RNAi arms race.

I will continue to publish updates on this “arms race”.

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