Nastech Pharmaceutical, a Bothell biotechnology company, has named Michael French its chief executive officer and will call itself MDRNA...

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Nastech Pharmaceutical, a Bothell biotechnology company, has named Michael French its chief executive officer and will call itself MDRNA as it revs up efforts to develop gene-based therapies.

French last year steered Sirna Therapeutics to a $1.1 billion sale to Merck. He succeeds Steven Quay, effective today. Quay, at Nastech’s helm for eight years, will become chief scientific officer and remain chairman.

Under French, MDRNA will try to produce new medicines using gene technology known as RNA interference, the same type of products that spurred the acquisition of San Francisco-based Sirna by Merck.

French, who was senior vice president for corporate development at Sirna, said he will consider options including partnerships and acquisitions.

“You have to be prepared to take your program to the finish line with or without help,” French said. “Partnerships will come from that, and potentially acquisitions.”

The company is exploring licensing and purchase possibilities for its drugs in early human trials for conditions including diabetes and obesity. Those products don’t mesh with the new focus on RNA, French said.

Therapies based on RNA interference work by turning off genes responsible for certain diseases. This new field of science won the Nobel Prize in 2006 for the two U.S. researchers who discovered the mechanism.

French didn’t say how soon MDRNA might begin human trials for its most advanced prospects.