July 22, 2008 / 5:54 AM / 9 years ago

Roche acquires private U.S. RNAi company

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

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