Thursday, March 08, 2007

RNAi 2.0

Interference RNA has experienced a banner year. Two of its prime discoverers won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. Sirna Therapeutics, Inc., which, along with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., bestride the RNAi patent estate, was swallowed up by pharmaceutical giant, Merck & Company, Inc.. And, both research and investment interest in RNAi have soared.

In its March issue, Nature Biotechnology provides a snapshot of where the second generation of RNAi research is heading by highlighting relevant recently published U.S. and international (that is, PCT) patent applications. A few trends are notable. A significant amount of RNAi inventions (as evidenced by this surely non-random and insignificantly small sample) are owned by non-U.S. companies: Japanese (18%), Korean (9%), and French (9%). Recently published patent applications are heavily directed towards treating or preventing particular diseases or classes of diseases: 82%. Perhaps validating Merck's purchase, Sirna accounts for more of the selected patent applications (that is, 18%) than any other company. Sirna's Senior Scientist, J.A. McSwiggen, is the most prolific inventor in the sample RNAi patent, having contributed to 27% of the patent applications.

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