Roche boosts RNAi capability with acquisition of Mirus Bio Corporation

1 August 2008

Roche is to take over RNA technology company Mirus Bio Corporation for US$125m. Mirus is a privately-owned company based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, that focuses on the discovery and development of innovative nucleic acid based technologies, including a proprietary RNAi (ribonucleic acid interference) delivery platform.

RNAi is a natural mechanism that the body uses to 'silence' certain genes and represents a potential whole new class of therapeutics for difficult-to-treat diseases. The major challenge of this promising technology has so far been the transport of RNAi molecules into the target cell. Mirus' delivery platform provides an innovative way of effectively getting RNAi therapeutics to specific disease targets.

RNAi therapeutics provides Roche with the capabilities to target complex diseases such as cancer, respiratory or metabolic disorders. In 2007, Roche already announced a major alliance with the US-based company Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which included the acquisition of Alnylam's European research site located in Kulmbach, Germany. This is now Roche's established Centre of Excellence for RNAi therapeutic research.

"The pioneering work in RNAi delivery by the scientists at Mirus, together with our Centre of Excellence for RNAi research in Kulmbach, puts Roche at the forefront of bringing this whole new class of treatment to patients who suffer from difficult-to-treat diseases," said Lee E Babiss, Global Head of Roche Pharma Research.

"Our global research team has made great strides in advancing RNAi therapeutics, and with our new colleagues in Madison we will now bolster those efforts. The technology brought by Mirus, together with additional technologies, will bring us closer to creating fully enabled RNAi therapeutics."

"The expertise, resources and commitment that Roche brings to the RNAi field make Roche an ideal partner for Mirus," said Russell R. Smestad, President of Mirus. "Together we will be able to greatly accelerate the progress we would have accomplished independently."

Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will fully acquire Mirus for USD 125 million and will maintain an RNAi research site in Madison. Mirus' transfection reagents business will be divested into a standalone business to be known as Mirus Bio LLC, without any anticipated effect on existing customers. Employees will be offered a transition into their respective business unit. Completion is expected during the second half of 2008.

About RNAi

RNAi (RNA interference) is a revolution in biology, representing a breakthrough in understanding how genes are turned on and off in cells. Its discovery was awarded the Nobel Prize in October 2006. By harnessing the natural biological process of RNAi occurring in our cells, the creation of a major new class of medicines, known as RNAi therapeutics, is on the horizon. RNAi therapeutics targets the cause of diseases by potently silencing specific messenger RNAs (mRNAs), thereby preventing disease-causing proteins from being made. RNAi therapeutics has the potential to treat disease and help patients in a fundamentally new way.

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