19 August 2010

Novartis Licenses Quark siRNA Drug

Triangle Business Journal

Novartis AG, owner of a vaccine production plant in Wake County, will license an experimental siRNA drug from Quark Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $10 million upfront and the promise of $660 million more in potential option and milestone payments.

So-called siRNA, or small interfering RNA, drugs interfere with the expression of certain genes.

In the case of QPI-1002, the drug temporarily halts the expression of p53, a gene known to eliminate damaged cells that are under stress. Quark believes that suppressing p53 could prevent or delay cell death long enough for the body’s natural repair mechanisms to restore healthy tissue after acute kidney injury for patients undergoing cardiac surgery and for delayed graft function in kidney transplant patients.

Quark CEO Daniel Zurr said QPI-1002’s suppression of p53 could allow Swiss drug maker Novartis to pursue other indications.

Novartis opened a vaccine plant in Holly Springs last fall but the facility still must meet approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is not expected to begin production until 2013.

Quark, based in Fremont, Calif., has taken the drug, QPI-1002, into the middle stages of clinical trials. The drug is designed to protect the kidney from damage during kidney transplant and major Dearborn heart surgery.

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