The UK Patent Office recently granted Sirna Therapeutics two broad patents that cover short interfering RNAs, and the company has similar patents pending in the US Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Office.

The patents lock up the use of short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) as therapeutics in the UK market, according to Sirna, but some say the company's intellectual property position is not that strong. Sirna Therapeutics, which is in the process of moving from Boulder, Colo., to San Francisco, changed its name from Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals in 2003 and has been publicly traded for several years. The company, which has roughly 80 employees, now specializes in developing RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapies for macular degeneration, hepatitis C, and Huntington disease, among other ailments. The company has filed for patents on hundreds of applications for siRNAs.

The first patent (UK patent No. 2397818) broadly covers any chemical modifications that alter...

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