San Diego upstart acquires RNA tech from cash-strapped Marina Biotech

Marina Biotech has sold off a chunk of intellectual property in its portfolio of RNA technologies, and CEO J. Michael French says that the deal is "one step" toward moving his company to the Boston area, Mass High Tech reported.

It's the latest in a pile of reinvention plans from Marina's French, whose RNA-interference (RNAi) company closed its labs in Bothell, WA, last year after running dangerously low on funds.

Arcturus Therapeutics, a San Diego biotech startup, said Wednesday that it has purchased unlocked nucleobase analog tech from Marina that gives gene-silencing RNAi drugs unique capabilities, including reducing off-target effects. Founded by pharma veterans, Arcturus recently scored $1.3 million in a seed round of financing and opened up shop in Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) incubator Janssen Labs early this year, according to the company's website. 

Arcturus left out financial details of the Marina agreement, and it's unclear how much French scored in the transaction for Marina.

"The Arcturus agreement is one step in a longer journey for Marina Biotech," French wrote in an email, as quoted by Mass High Tech. "We are intent on rebuilding our company in the Boston area to take advantage of Massachusetts's support of high-tech endeavors such as Marina Biotech's cutting-edge nucleic acid drug discovery platform. We hope that this agreement will be the first of several transactions that will ultimately lead to the relocation of our research and development operations to Massachusetts."

This wouldn't be the first time Marina has had a presence in the Boston area. In 2010 the company (previously MDRNA) merged with Cequent Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, MA, but later shuttered the Cequent outpost in early 2012 to consolidate its research in Bothell.

The Boston area has some major-league players in the RNA game, including Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ($ALNY), Sarepta Therapeutics ($SRPT), Dicerna Pharmaceuticals and Moderna Therapeutics. French would be in some good company there.

- here's the Arcturus announcement
- read the MHT article