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Athersys and Cleveland Clinic Foundation Collaborate on Drug Target Project

NEW YORK, March 9 - Athersys will use its Random Activation of Gene Expression technology in a collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to discover and validate drug targets for cancer and inflammation cell signaling pathways, the company said Friday.

Under the project, Athersys scientists will participate in research directed by George Stark, chairman of the CCF's Lerner Research Institute. Athersys will have the exclusive option to commercialize any therapeutics that arise out of the collaboration. The parties did not disclose further financial terms.

RAGE technology is designed to allow researchers to survey the entire human genome for proteins with a specific biological function and to quickly and accurately correlate protein function with gene structure, Athersys said. RAGE randomly activates genes, then tags them in different samples. The researchers can then use this tagging system to correlate expression with disease processes in cells. 

"By using RAGE to make genome-wide protein expression libraries in our mutant cells, we hope to quickly and efficiently associate biological function with expression of a specific RAGE activated protein," Stark said in a statement. "This could be a great advance in our ability to further the understanding of cellular disease pathways." 

Researchers at CCF and Athersys are seeking to identify key regulators of pathways in cells for two proteins, Nuclear Factor-kappaB, a transcriptional factor involved in inflammation, immunity, apoptosis, cytokine production and cancer; and the tumor suppressor proteinp53. The researchers hope that these regulators could serve as targets for activating or inhibiting these proteins.

Athersys has also signed deals with Bristol-Myers Squibb, Covance, and Elan pharmaceuticals to use its RAGE technology in therapeutic discovery .