Roche acquires private U.S. RNAi company

ZURICH Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:01am BST



ZURICH (Reuters) - Roche Holding (ROG.VX) said it has acquired Mirus Bio Corp, a privately held U.S. company that focuses on RNAi or gene silencing as a way to fight disease, for $125 million (62.4 million pounds).

RNA interference, or RNAi, is one of the hottest areas of biotechnology research and has attracted investment from a range of major drugmakers.

Roche signed a licensing deal with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc (ALNY.O) last year that gave it access to the U.S. company's skills in RNAi, which involves blocking disease-causing proteins.

"The technology brought by Mirus, together with additional technologies, will bring us closer to creating fully enabled RNAi therapeutics," Lee Babiss, head of Roche pharma research, said in a statement.

Roche will maintain a Mirus RNAi research site in Madison, Wisconsin. Mirus' transfection reagents business will be divested into a standalone business and employees will be offered a transition into their respective business unit.

(Reporting by Sam Cage; editing by Rory Channing)