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2005 News


October 2005

New Licences for Gene Silencing by siRNAs

In September, PBL has signed a commercial licence with a major AgBiotech company for using PBL’s siRNA intellectual property for gene silencing.  This is in addition to the licence agreement already announced (August 2005) on the related technology of detection of siRNAs.  The ongoing prosecution by PBL of a series of patent filings in the United States directed to the use of siRNAs (short interfering RNAs) as effector molecules for gene silencing in organisms and to methods of inducing gene silencing by siRNAs, has led to the conclusion of the agreement.

The technology is based on the seminal invention of identifying short RNAs as effector molecules for gene silencing made by Professor David Baulcombe and Dr Andrew Hamilton at the Sainsbury Laboratory as published in Science (Vol. 286, pp950-952, 1999).  This publication is one of the most outstanding and important contributions in the RNAi field as attested by the fact that according to the ISI Essential Science Indicators SM from The Thomson Corporation it is one of the most widely cited scientific publication on RNAi.

In addition to the pending patent filings directed to the effector molecules themselves and to methods of inducing gene silencing, PBL has already been granted a patent (US Patent No. 6,753,139) by the United States Patent Office for methods of detection of gene silencing that has also already been licensed non-exclusively.

PBL is currently offering non-exclusive licences to this seminal intellectual property estate, ahead of the shortly anticipated issuance of further patents from the pending applications.  Favourable terms are obtainable from PBL for a limited time for licences to the siRNA IP both for detection and its use in gene silencing.

Enquiries: lars@pbltechnology.com

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October 2005

Licence granted to South Carolina Micro RNA Technology

Following the positive initial patent examination of the micro RNA intellectual property licensed to and managed by PBL, on behalf of the University of South Carolina, we are now pleased to announce the conclusion of a commercial licence agreement with a major AgBiotech company, for the use of micro RNAs in gene silencing in plants.

The micro RNA technology was invented by Professor Vicki Vance at the University of South Carolina and is licensed exclusively to PBL for further sublicensing.  Following the emergence and recognition of siRNAs in gene silencing, Professor Vicki Vance was the first scientist to recognise and deduce the importance of micro RNAs in plant gene regulation, especially within the regulation of plant development.  The technology provides an extremely useful and versatile tool to influence plant development and make use of the developmental regulation mechanism.

The PCT patent application (WO 2004/009779 A2) has claims directed towards modulating gene expression in plants using micro RNA sequences complementary to a target sequence and plant cells containing micro RNA precursors.  The patent application has a very early priority date compared with applications by other researchers in the field.

PBL is currently offering non-exclusive licences to this extremely important intellectual property estate, while the patent applications are still within the patent examination phase in various territories worldwide.  Favourable terms are currently obtainable from PBL for these licences for a limited period until further progress has been made with the patent prosecution.

Enquiries: lars@pbltechnology.com

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September 2005

Novacta Biosystems Limited appoints new Chairman

Novacta Biosystems Limited has appointed Andy Sandham as its new Chairman.  Novacta was established by PBL to develop new anti-infective pharmaceuticals based on lantibiotic technology generated at the John Innes Centre.  Novacta's CEO, Dr Fiona Marston, said "Novacta is delighted that Andy Sandham has accepted this position as he brings a wealth of expertise to the company at a point when it is positioned for its next phase of strategic growth."

Click here for full press release.

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August 2005

Licensing agreement with Hamilton Grant Software Limited concluded

PBL is pleased to announce that it has concluded a licensing agreement with Hamilton Grant Software Limited to develop and commercialise the Buffering Theory Software developed at the Institute of Food Research (IFR).

Hamilton Grant are world leaders in specialist software for food manufacturers, retailers, ingredient suppliers and food service companies.  Buffering Theory Software has been developed by scientists at the IFR and enables pH predictions to be carried out for real food systems.  The acid-base behaviour of individual ingredients (such as juices) are characterised and the data combined to produce an algorithm to describe the buffering capacity of the system of interest.  This is used as a base to which the addition of known pH modulating ingredients (such as organic acids) can be applied to reach a target product pH.

The deal with Hamilton Grant will allow a fully optimised version of the software to be offered for sale to the food industry.

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August 2005

RSF backs PBL's spin-out Chameleon Biosurfaces

The Rainbow Seed Fund has this month invested in Chameleon Biosurfaces, the new company established by PBL and using technology created by Prof Chris Pickett at the John Innes Centre.

Chameleon's technology, which has been patented by PBL, can be used in medical devices, solid state chemistry, sensors, and biochips.  Its business model is strategic development partnerships with device manufacturers, with royalties on products.

Chameleon said the investment, of an undisclosed amount, would enable further development of the company's patented technology and would pay for new premises.  This is Chameleon's second equity investment in 12 months following that of the Iceni Seed Fund in 2004.  Andrew Muir, investment manager at RSF, commented: "We were delighted to lead this round of investment, which will allow the company to step up the commercialisation of Chris Pickett's world-leading research in this field."

Ian Mackenzie, chief operating officer of Chameleon, said: "Surface modification of medical devices offers great benefits for patients and practitioners, and the current funding will enable Chameleon to participate fully in this exciting area."

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August 2005

siRNA: Detection of short interfering RNAs

Following the issuance of US Patent No. 6,753,139 by the United States Patent Office for methods of detection of gene silencing in plants and methods of isolating gene silencing effectors from plants, PBL is now offering non-exclusive licences to practice this invention.

This technology is based on the seminal invention for the detection of short RNAs and using RNAs as effector molecules for gene silencing made by Professor David Baulcombe and Dr Andrew Hamilton at the Sainsbury Laboratory as published in Science (Vol. 286, pp950-952, 1999).

A series of additional patent filings are pending in the United States directed to the effector molecules themselves, methods of detection of gene silencing in organisms generally and to methods of inducing gene silencing.

PBL is actively exploring its options for commercial recognition of this proprietary technology.  PBL has already signed a licence with a major AgBiotech company under its granted patent for the detection of short RNAs in plants and for a limited period, is now offering licence rights to its entire portfolio of issued and pending rights to siRNA effectors of gene silencing.

Enquiries: lars@pbltechnology.com

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August 2005

CleanGene™: Direct DNA transformation optimisation

PBL is pleased to announce that it has received notice that its patent relating to the CleanGene™ transformation system will be granted in Europe.  This issuance is in addition to the already granted US patent number 6,846,970, which was issued earlier this year.

PBL can therefore offer broad protection for the methods, constructs and methods of use there of, and the plants produced by this superior direct DNA transformation methodology.

The CleanGene™ transformation system was developed by Professor Paul Christou and colleagues at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.  The technology represents a significant and important improvement to conventional methods of plant transformation using direct DNA transfer.  The use of minimal expression vectors, comprising linear DNA fragments containing only promoter, transgene coding region and terminator / polyadenylation sites used in the CleanGene™ technology limits the occurrence of these illegitimate recombination events.  While maintaining all the desirable benefits of bombardment technology (genotype independence, ecological safety, high co-transformation frequency), CleanGene™ produces transgenic plants with very simple integration patterns and low transgene copy numbers, resulting in stable expression over many generations and almost no transgene silencing.

PBL is now offering the CleanGene™ transformation system for licensing.

Enquiries: lars@pbltechnology.com

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February 2005

CleanGene™: Direct DNA transformation optimisation

PBL is pleased to announce that its patent relating to the CleanGene™ transformation system has been granted in the USA as US patent number 6,846,970.

The CleanGene™ transformation system was developed by Professor Paul Christou and colleagues at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.  The technology represents a significant and important improvement to conventional methods of plant transformation using direct DNA transfer.  The use of minimal expression vectors, comprising linear DNA fragments containing only promoter, transgene coding region and terminator /polyadenylation sites used in the CleanGene™ technology limits the occurrence of these illegitimate recombination events.  While maintaining all the desirable benefits of bombardment technology (genotype independence, ecological safety, high co-transformation frequency), CleanGene™ produces transgenic plants with very simple integration patterns and low transgene copy numbers, resulting in stable expression over many generations and almost no transgene silencing.

PBL is now offering the CleanGene™ transformation system for licensing.

Enquiries: lars@pbltechnology.com

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January 2005

Biotechnology YES winners mentored by PBL

A team from The Sainsbury Laboratory and coached by PBL has won the BBSRC's 2004 Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme competition.  This is the second time in three years that a team coached by PBL has won this prestigious award.

The Sainsbury Lab team was Jack Peart (CEO), Antonio Serna-Sanz (R&D Manager), Liliya Serazetdinova (Finance Director), Rudy Maor (Marketing Director) and Morten Jensen (Operations Director).  They based their idea for a business on the use of heat-tolerant bacteria to combine the stages of fermentation and distillation during ethanol production.  They proposed that this high temperature ethanol fermentation (Hi-TEF) would enable significant energy, antibiotic, enzyme and time savings over conventional production processes.  The aim of the company was to licence this novel platform technology that will revolutionise the production of fuel ethanol.

Dr Peter Ringrose, Chairman of BBSRC, and head of the judging panel said, "The judges were hugely impressed with the quality of all the team's presentations and business plans but the Sainsbury Laboratory team showed a first-rate grasp of the product development, marketing, intellectual property rights and finance needed to make a biotechnology start-up company a success."

Click here for the full BBSRC Press Release in PDF format.

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January 2005

Wellcome Trust makes investment into Novacta Biosystems Limited

The Wellcome Trust has made a significant investment into Novacta Biosystems Limited, the company set up by PBL to develop new anti-infective pharmaceuticals based on lantibiotic technology generated at the John Innes Centre.  "This investment will significantly boost Novacta's lantibiotic programme and this is a great endorsement for the Novacta team and the company's science and technology platform" said Jan Chojecki, Managing Director of PBL.

FIGHT AGAINST HOSPITAL INFECTIONS WILL BENEFIT FROM NEW INVESTMENT

The Wellcome Trust has made a significant programme related investment in the Hatfield based biotechnology company, Novacta Biosystems Ltd, to facilitate the development of new drugs to fight infection.

Novacta is reputed for its research into natural products that show activity against the types of resistant micro-organisms that are responsible for many hospital acquired infections, including the oft mentioned MRSA – also known as the “hospital superbug” – whose incidence is reaching alarming proportions.  A family of natural antibiotics known as lantibiotics is being studied by scientists at Novacta's laboratories and has already shown activity against resistant infectious bacteria – including MRSA.

The Wellcome Trust investment is directed at the discovery and development of analogues of lantibiotic antibacterial agents and will allow Novacta to accelerate its research activities for a novel therapeutic agent.  Novacta has a well recognised expertise in manipulating biological systems, including natural products and natural catalysts, and applies its experience in genetics and biosynthetic pathway engineering together with its knowledge of enzyme systems and fermentation science to develop these new bioactive compounds into drug candidates.

“Resistance to conventional antibiotics is seriously compromising our ability to treat bacterial infections, not only in the hospital but also in community medicine” said Dr Mike Dawson, Research Director at Novacta.  “Some infecting organisms, ‘superbugs' such as MRSA, have acquired resistance to almost all currently available antibiotics.  We aim to take a new antibiotic drug candidate to the clinic as quickly as possible.”

Commenting on the investment, Dr Fiona Marston, CEO of Novacta, said “We are proud to have received this investment from such a prestigious body as The Wellcome Trust and regard it as an accolade following detailed peer review of our science.”

Dr Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust said: “If we are to win the battle against resistant ‘superbugs' such as MRSA, ingenious treatments will have to be devised.  This is why we have invested in this technology, which we hope will provide new ways of attacking deadly infections.”

For further information or enquiries contact:

Dr John Sime Barry Gardner
Novacta Biosystems Limited
UH Innovation Centre
College Lane
Hatfield
Herts
AL10 9AB
The Wellcome Trust
Media Office
john.sime@novactabio.com b.gardner@wellcome.ac.uk
Tel: 01707 281038 - Fax: 01707 281059 Tel: 0207 611 7329
www.novactabio.com www.wellcome.ac.uk


Editors' note:

Novacta Biosystems Limited is a privately owned company based in Hatfield UK. Novacta uses its platform of biotransformation and biosynthetic pathway engineering technologies in research and development services for the pharmaceutical, chemical, food and cosmetic industries, and in research and development of its own novel drug candidates.

The Wellcome Trust is an independent research-funding charity established in 1936 under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome.  The Trust's mission is to promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health and it currently spends around £400m p.a.  The Technology Transfer Division manages the charity's intellectual property portfolio and related matters and also provides translation funding for early-stage healthcare technology development.  Over 70 research and license agreements have been transacted and the Division has an interest in around 30 early-stage life science companies in the UK and US.

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