UPDATED: San Diego biotech insider accused of shooting RNAi expert and brother-in-law

San Diego police say that biotech entrepreneur Hans Petersen shot and wounded his brother-in-law Ron Fletcher and the University of California, San Diego scientist Steven Dowdy at separate times and locations Thursday, The Associated Press reported. Authorities have arrested Petersen for attempted murder and other charges.

Dowdy was shot in the lower back, the AP reported. Police linked that shooting to a business breakup between Dowdy and Petersen, who had been a founder and CEO of Traversa Therapeutics, an RNA interference company that filed for bankruptcy last year. Dowdy, who was affiliated with the biotech startup, has since gone on to co-found an RNAi-delivery upstart called Solstice Biologics.

Petersen shot Fletcher in the stomach hours after wounding Dowdy, police say, and the alleged shooter blamed his brother-in-law for his role in Petersen's failed marriage with Fletcher's sister, the news wire reported.

"This was not a random act of violence against people of La Jolla. There was a nexus between all the people involved," said Lt. Kevin Mayer, as quoted by the AP.

It's unclear what exactly led to the undoing of Petersen's relationship with Dowdy and their company Traversa. Police said that Petersen blamed Dowdy for losing his job, but Petersen's LinkedIn profile shows that he has since formed a new life sciences startup called Bays Four.

The RNAi field is littered with failures in part because of the early technical challenges of getting the drugs to work in patients. These technical uncertainties triggered jitters in the investment community, and at least one major player, Roche ($RHHBY), bailed on the field.

Yet new delivery technologies have given hope that RNAi players led by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ($ALNY) could someday deliver drugs from the class of gene-silencing therapies. Amid renewed hope for the field, Dowdy's new company Solstice announced an $18 million Series A round of venture financing in January.

In Petersen's LinkedIn profile, it says that some "Traversa intellectual property survives and is currently licensed by Solstice." Petersen, who police say is 49 years old, recently founded and serves as CEO of Bays Four, which his online profile says aims to "become the largest and highest quality globally collected bio-repository linked phenotype information source for the prediction of human characteristics based on whole genome data analysis."

The CEO of Bays Four was behind bars, being held without bail as of Thursday afternoon, the AP reported.

- check out the AP article

Editor's note: This article has been updated with detail about Petersen's motive for shooting Dowdy from the AP article.

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