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Cequent Pharmaceuticals Meets Novartis Option Fund Milestone; Continues to Next Phase to Validate Inflammatory Bowel Disease Targets in Vivo
Date:9/15/2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Cequent Pharmaceuticals, a pioneer in the development of novel products to deliver RNAi-based treatments to prevent and treat human disease, announced that it has met its second milestone in its option agreement with the Novartis Option Fund and will move on to the next phase to validate targets for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) using Cequent's proprietary TransKingdom RNA interference [tkRNAi(TM)] technology in animal models. Specific payment terms and targets were not disclosed.

"IBD is actually a spectrum of diseases, and the power of RNAi is that you could potentially design therapeutics specifically to target the individual forms of the disease," said Cequent President and CEO, Peter Parker. "When we started the Novartis program, we were evaluating eight targets simultaneously as potential therapeutics for inflammatory bowel disease. Our milestone goal, which we accomplished, was to winnow the targets down to three that we will further validate in in vivo animal trials before Cequent selects the single target to be the subject of the Option agreement. We believe our success with this work, along with progress in our other development programs for Familial Polyposis (FAP) and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), demonstrate the potential of our tkRNAi technology to become an important tool to better understand, and ultimately, to treat many devastating diseases."

Said Steven Tregay, PhD, a managing director of Novartis Option Fund, "We are impressed with both the quality and speed of the work that Cequent is doing on the IBD program -- as well as the potential of their tkRNAi platform. Creating compounds to address eight targets and completing in vitro screening in only nine months would have been virtually impossible with traditional small-molecule-based drug discovery technologies. We're pleased to release the milestone payment to Cequent, and look forward to our continued relationship both as venture investor and partner."

About Cequent Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (http://www.cequentpharma.com)

An early-stage biopharmaceutical company, Cequent is pioneering the development of novel therapeutics to prevent and treat a wide range of human diseases -- from inflammatory diseases to cancer -- based on the company's proprietary technology, TransKingdom RNA interference (tkRNAi). Cequent's first products, now in pre-clinical development, are drug candidates targeting colon-cancer prevention and inflammatory bowel disease. The company designed its powerful tkRNAi technology to deactivate specific disease-causing genes safely and effectively, using non-pathogenic bacteria as an engine to produce and deliver RNAi directly into cells. It is based on ground-breaking scientific research originating at The Pasteur Institute (Paris, France) and at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. A privately held company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cequent was established in 2006.

About Novartis Option Fund (http://www.venturefund.novartis.com)

The Novartis Option Fund is a $200 million fund that is part of the Novartis Corporate Venture Funds. Established in 1996, the Novartis Venture Funds currently manage over $550 million in committed capital and is invested in more than 50 private companies. The objective of the Novartis Option Fund is to seed innovative companies through initial and follow-on investment. The initial investment is coupled with an option to a specific therapeutic program providing early validation for the start-up company's technology/programs by large pharma. The Novartis Venture Funds team of nine investment professionals located in Basel, Switzerland and Cambridge, Massachusetts, brings together extensive expertise in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry and venture capital.


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SOURCE Cequent Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
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