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Juvaris BioTherapeutics And Somagenics Announce Collaboration On Combination Products

10/19/2005 5:11:17 PM

PLEASANTON, Calif., May 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Juvaris BioTherapeutics Inc., and SomaGenics, Inc., private biotechnology companies, today announced they have entered into a collaboration to develop products combining their technologies. This approach combines the RNA-based gene inhibition technology of SomaGenics with the immunomodulatory and vaccine technology under development by Juvaris BioTherapeutics. The effort is directed towards the development of novel methods for immediate inhibition of pathogenesis, stimulation of innate immunity, and the development of specific immunity to disease-related antigens.

The initial focus of this collaboration is a novel immune stimulant and specific gene inhibitor combination that could be used to elicit both non-specific and specific protection against anthrax and anthrax toxin. This combination product was the subject of two recent joint grant applications by the companies. The Juvaris and SomaGenics groups envision further collaboration in the areas of infectious disease and cancer.

In commenting on the collaboration, Juvaris' CEO Martin D. Cleary stated, "The extension of the Juvaris platform to using inhibitory RNA opens up many interesting product opportunities, which we think may be of interest to the venture community and potential corporate partners. We are excited about this opportunity and our new collaboration with SomaGenics, a recognized leader in the field of inhibitory RNA."

SomaGenics' CEO Brian Johnston said, "SomaGenics is very pleased to initiate this collaboration with Juvaris. We feel the combination of gene inhibition and immune stimulation technologies could provide an important new approach for the treatment of infectious disease in general and anthrax in particular. We are very impressed with the Juvaris technology and look forward to the results of our joint effort."

About Juvaris

Juvaris BioTherapeutics was created in 2002 to develop an immunotherapeutic product platform for the treatment of infectious diseases and cancer using lipid-DNA complexes. Cationic lipids are formulated with non-coding DNA (plasmid) to create JuvImmune(TM), a single lipid-DNA complex, which as an immunostimulation product will have utility in a number of non-antigen immunotherapeutic applications. The DNA in these complexes does not code for protein, but rather, through a combined synergistic effect with lipids, strongly stimulates immune responses.

The JuvImmune(TM) product has been shown to be at least 50-times more potent at triggering innate immune activation and interferon release than current immune stimulants. Juvaris was recently issued Patent No. 6,693,086 titled "Systemic Immune Activation Method Using Nucleic Acid-Lipid Complexes" providing broad intellectual property coverage for the JuvImmune(TM) technology.

When combined with disease-specific antigens, the technology creates JuvaVax(TM) vaccines capable of activating substantial antibody- and cell- mediated immune responses, particularly induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Immunological responses elicited by the lipid-DNA complexes have been successfully demonstrated in both prophylactic and therapeutic settings in a variety of mammals including rodents, rabbits, cats, dogs and non-human primates. This system provides the opportunity to develop many disease- specific vaccine products, for which there are significant unmet medical needs.

About SomaGenics

SomaGenics is an innovator in the area of RNA-based gene inhibitors, a class of molecules that includes siRNAs, ribozymes, and the SomaGenics- proprietary RNA Lassos. RNA Lassos are catalytic RNA molecules designed to hybridize to target RNAs and ligate their own ends together, creating a topological linkage to the target mRNA. Lasso-target complexes can inhibit gene expression by physically blocking translation of the target RNA, by preventing RNA processing, or by regulating splicing. RNA Lassos have been successful in inhibiting gene expression in several model systems.

Since Lassos, unlike ordinary antisense molecules, are circular and highly structured, making them relatively resistant to degradation by nucleases in biological fluids. Lassos can be allosterically regulated, enabling them to respond to the environment and potentially making them cell-specific. Lassos can be designed for very high sequence specificity, responsive to single nucleotide differences. Finally, Lassos' lack of target cleavage allows them to redirect splicing, where ribozymes and siRNAs are much less useful since they cleave all splice variants to which they bind.

To address the problem of identifying the best target sites for Lasso, antisense, or siRNA action, SomaGenics has developed proprietary methods for producing libraries of inhibitors, called directed libraries, which contain all possible sequences of a certain length occurring within a given gene, gene family, or genome. SomaGenics has developed efficient plasmid-based and viral vectors for delivering libraries of inhibitors to cells as well as methods for selection of optimal inhibitors based on phenotype.

SomaGenics' base technologies, including Lassos and library methods, are covered by issued and pending patent applications in the major international markets. The company has been awarded some 20 research grants and contracts from the NIH, NSF, NASA, and DARPA to help fund its early-stage research. Current areas of therapeutic development include autoimmune disease, cancer, and anti-virals.

The Companies encourage investment and partnering inquiries and can be reached at their websites @ and

For further information please contact: Martin D. Cleary of Juvaris BioTherapeutics, Inc., +1-925-399-6200,

Juvaris BioTherapeutics, Inc.

CONTACT: Martin D. Cleary of Juvaris BioTherapeutics, Inc.,+1-925-399-6200,

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