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EGEN, Inc. Advances a Systemically Delivered RNAi Therapeutic for the Treatment of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., June 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- EGEN, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical  company, announced today that  EGEN's proprietary lung targeting Staramine-mPEG nanoparticle delivery system has been used to administer an inhibitor of microRNA-145 (anti-miRNA-145) in a rat model of severe occlusive PAH.  Treatment was shown to significantly reverse the pulmonary hypertension associated with the advanced stages of the disease and restore cardiovascular function.  This program, in collaboration with Dr. William Gerthoffer at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, is focused on evaluating new approaches that can be used to prevent vascular remodeling that occurs in patients with PAH which leads to the deleterious cardiovascular effects associated with the disease.  The results of this work were recently presented at the 2013 American Thoracic Society Annual Meeting held in Philadelphia, PA.  The abstract titles were:  "Targeted Pulmonary Delivery of a microRNA Inhibitor Reverses Severe Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension in Rats", J.M. Mclendon presenting author, and "Treatment with Anti-microRNA in an Experimental Model of Occlusive Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Reverses Vascular Remodeling", S.R Joshi presenting author.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenously produced non-coding RNAs that bind to partially complimentary target sites in messenger RNA leading to degradation of transcript or translation inhibition.  In this way, miRNAs can post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression in a cell.  Increasingly, it is being recognized that miRNA disregulation may be the root cause of many diseases.  In PAH, an increase in one particular miRNA (miRNA-145) has been linked to pulmonary vascular remodeling.  Thus, it has been hypothesized that inhibiting the miRNA with an anti-miR (an oligonucleotide that targets miRNA) will slow or reverse established PAH-related vascular remodeling and restore normal pulmonary function.  EGEN's Staramine-mPEG nanoparticle delivery system overcomes delivery challenges by targeting the site of the miRNA-145 expression; namely the lung.

"Our approach may provide a potential breakthrough in the treatment of PAH because of the strong mechanistic linkages between up regulation of  miRNA-145 that we are targeting and the vascular remodeling associated with the disease," said Dr. William Gerthoffer , Professor and Chair, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  "Use of the Staramine-mPEG delivery system is a natural fit for this anti-miR approach where targeted delivery to the lung is a requirement."

"There is a clear unmet medical need for novel agents that can treat PAH," said Jason Fewell , Ph.D., VP of Preclinical Research and Development at EGEN, Inc. "We have been very encouraged by the positive efficacy results that have been achieved by Dr. Gerthoffer's group in their rat PAH model using our proprietary delivery technology and believe that targeting miRNAs has tremendous potential as a novel therapeutic for this devastating disease."

About PAH

PAH is a progressive, symptomatic, and ultimately fatal disorder that results from a proliferation of the smooth muscle cells that line the arteries in the lung and is characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.  As the arteries narrow the arterial pressure is increased and blood flow from the heart to the lungs is decreased.  To compensate, the heart must pump harder, causing the walls on the right side of the heart to thicken and weaken.  These changes make it difficult for the heart to push blood through the arteries and into the lungs. Ultimately the heart becomes so weak that it can't pump enough blood to the lungs which can ultimately cause heart failure.  Currently there are not cures for this disease only treatments that improve the management of symptoms.

About EGEN, Inc.

EGEN, Inc. (EGEN), with laboratories and headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, is a privately held clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapeutics for the treatment of human diseases.  The Company specializes in the delivery of therapeutic nucleic acids (DNA and RNAi) aimed at specific disease targets.  The Company has significant intellectual property positions in synthetic carriers, their combination with oligonucleotides, expression vectors and their therapeutic applications. EGEN has research pipeline products aimed at the treatment of various cancer and cardiovascular indications and has collaborations with outside investigators, biotech organizations, and universities on various projects in these areas.

Safe Harbor for Forward Looking Statements

Certain statements contained in this press release may be deemed to be forward looking statements under federal securities laws and EGEN intends that such forward looking statements be subject to the safe harbor created thereby.  EGEN does not undertake an obligation to publicly update or revise any forward looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Actual events or results may differ from our expectations as a result of a number of factors, including but not limited to uncertainties in clinical trials and product development programs, ability and success level of the Company in securing adequate capital for operations, market place acceptance of any resulting product and other factors common to biotechnology research and development.  There can be no guarantee that any product in our pipeline will be successfully developed. 

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