Hairpin tops $1M in RNA licensing deals

Hairpin Technologies managing partner Joe Scaduto.

A Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory spinoff with less than a year under its belt has sped past $1 million in licensing revenue on the lab’s patented “short hairpin RNA” technology.

Ronkonkoma-based Hairpin Technologies was launched in 2015 to expand the commercial distribution of, and develop new research uses for, shRNA, a versatile biomedical research and drug-discovery tool invented by Gregory Hannon, a CSHL professor and former researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland.

As the exclusive licensing agent for the laboratory’s shRNA portfolio, Hairpin Technologies negotiates licensing agreements with manufacturers, distributors and end-users. The shRNA tech, which according to Hairpin is “protected by a robust portfolio of U.S. and international patents,” involves RNA sequences that make tight “hairpin” turns; those turns create “RNA interference,” effectively silencing certain gene activity, or expressions.

Isolating and manipulating specific gene expressions represents a major step toward better understanding a host of biological functions and the role of specific genes in certain diseases, as well as identifying pharmaceutical targets.

Joseph Scaduto, Hairpin Technologies’ cofounder and managing partner, said the quick ascent to $1 million in licensing revenues “demonstrates the value and versatility of the shRNA technology.”

Since officially launching last March, Hairpin Technologies has negotiated commercial distributor licenses for shRNA with the Sigma-Aldrich Corp., a Missouri-based life sciences firm acquired in 2014 by German biotech giant Merck, and California-based Life Technologies Corp., a now-retired brand acquired by Massachusetts Big Pharma stalwart Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2014.

Hairpin Technologies, which has sole rights to negotiate and execute license agreements regarding Hammon’s shRNA technology, has also bartered end-user licenses with a number of major-league international pharmaceutical distributors, including GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Biogen.

Teri Willey, CSHL’s vice president of business development and technology transfer, said the laboratory was extremely pleased with Hairpin Technologies’ rapid progress.

“We are very grateful to Hairpin Technologies for representing the shRNA patent portfolio … and for generating this licensing revenue in such a short period of time,” Wiley said in a statement.

How quickly Hairpin Technologies and the shRNA portfolio cross the $2 million licensing-revenue plateau remains to be seen. The startup continues to conduct marketing, corporate outreach and out-licensing efforts on behalf of the CSHL intellectual property, and according to Scaduto – who is also founder and CEO of Stony Brook-based pharmaceuticals-commercialization enterprise Traverse Biosciences – should continue to pile up new distributor and end-user agreements at a good clip.

“Our recent success in securing non-exclusive license agreements with commercial distributors and end-user demonstrates (shRNA’s) importance to research and development efforts throughout the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries,” Scaduto said.

“We fully anticipate that Hairpin Technologies will continue to expand licensing activity throughout 2016.”