Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ( ALNY) and Isis Pharmaceuticals ( ISIS) dished on a new microRNA company, and varying news sent other health stocks in both directions on Friday. Alnylam and Isis announced the launch of Regulus Therapeutics, a joint venture focused on microRNA (miRNA) therapeutics, an approach to targeting the pathways of human disease. It will be run as an independent company with an independent board of directors and management team. Alnylam is making an initial investment of $10 million, and both companies will share funding of the venture thereafter. Both companies will grant Regulus exclusive licenses to their intellectual property for miRNA therapeutic applications and patents in the miRNA field. Alnylam and Isis said they'll retain the rights to develop and commercialize on prenegotiated terms miRNA therapeutic products that Regulus decides not to develop independently or with a partner. Shares of Alnylam added $1.03, or 4%, to $26.88, while Isis lost 24 cents, or 2%, to $12.50. Both companies are components of the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was down 9.25, or 1.1%, to 827.55 on Friday. In another collaborative effort, Pozen ( POZN) said it amended its Aug. 2006 license agreement with AstraZeneca ( AZN) and started the phase III program for PN 400, a fixed-dose combination of the proton-pump inhibitor, esomeprazole magnesium, with the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug naproxen, in a single tablet.
Under the new terms, AstraZeneca will pay Pozen up to $345 million total for the achievement of development, regulatory and sales milestones. Pozen will receive an immediate $30 million payment for successful proof of concept, $55 million upon achievement of certain development and regulatory milestones and $260 million as sales performance milestones. Under the original agreement, development and regulatory milestones totaled $160 million, of which $20 million was to be paid upon the successful completion of the proof of concept studies, and sales performance milestones totaled $175 million. Pozen gained $1.63, or 16.2%, to $11.58, and AstraZeneca fell 71 cents, or 1.5%, to $48.17. Elsewhere, Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals ( HEPH) rocketed after giving an update on its investigational cancer drug, HE3235. It said updated data show that existing tumors in animals treated with HE3235 from the preclinical model still hadn't progressed and no new tumors were reported in the five weeks after dosing. Also, the company said that animals dosed at half the strength of the lowest dose previously tested still had no tumor progression. Shares gained 71 cents, or 43.3%, to $2.36. On the falling side, Enzo Biochem ( ENZ) slid Friday morning after the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut granted Applera's Applied Biosystems Group ( ABI) motion for a summary judgment, dismissing all remaining claims in a patent-infringement case.
Enzo gave up $4.47, or 25%, or $13.29, and Applied Biosystems Group gained before hugging the flat line at $32.23. Also, Affymetrix ( AFFX) said Friday that Empire Genomics obtained a non-exclusive worldwide license to a number of its patents for research and diagnostic purposes, but it didn't disclose financial details. The patents are for manufacturing, use and sales of nucleic acid microarrays and related products and services for comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). Shares were down 54 cents, or 2.3%, to $22.85.