Marina Biotech hits a funding wall, shuts down RNAi ops

Marina Biotech crawled farther toward the grave today, as the Bothell, WA-based developer of RNAi drugs said it's shutting down the majority of its operations amid pleas to the investor community for additional funding. And the company halted a clinical trial for its lead drug, CEQ508, a gene-silencing treatment for familial adenomatous polyposis.

Without a near-term influx of funding, Marina says, the company could have to shut down completely. For now, the company has announced a furlough of 90% of its workers and a stoppage of day-to-day operations. In an effort to avoid further financial perils, the company has received an extension on a loan to June 15, with plans to pay lenders via 5-year warrants to buy common stock. The company's shares trade over the counter and are listed at 69 cents a share, giving the company a puny $6.3 million market cap.

The company's closure comes after years of attempts at reinvention and near financial disaster at Marina, which has undergone at least two name changes since 2008, with the latest change from MDRNA to Marina touching off a squabble with a similar-sounding biotech in the Seattle area. And confidence in the company has suffered along with the sinking confidence in the field of RNA-interference drugs, which became the focus of the company after it spent years developing nasal-spray treatments under the name Nastech.

The company tried to renew faith in its potential with the $46 million merger with RNAi drug developer Cequent Pharmaceuticals in 2010, but the combination of the two cash-hungry biotechs in a risky pocket of drug development failed to do the trick. Marina ended up shuttering Cequent's Cambridge, MA, lab earlier this year, deciding to continue development of Cequent's science and programs from Bothell. But now even those activities are on ice.

FierceBiotech left a message for Marina CEO Michael French, but didn't hear back from him before this article was posted. It's unclear how many employees were sent home in the furlough.

- here's the release