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CSHL Launches RNAi Initiatives with NSF Funding


With a staff that includes researchers such as Greg Hannon and Rob Martienssen, it’s not too surprising that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory would be the source of two new ambitious RNAi projects.

With the help of National Science Foundation funding, CSHL has begun two grant projects looking to develop tools for high-throughput RNAi in plants and to expand university students’ access to the gene-silencing technology.

The first project, headed up by Hannon with $200,000 to date from a grant that runs from this September through February 2006, aims to “lay the groundwork for rapid generation of genome-scale resources for triggering post-transcriptional gene silencing of plant genes,” according to the grant’s abstract. Genome-scale projects are underway in worm, fly, and human systems, it adds, and the grant project is looking to develop resources to help researchers do the same in plants.

“Flexible vectors will be developed that incorporate short and long hairpin RNAs and their efficacy will be tested in plant cell cultures and intact plants,” the abstract states. Initially, the project will use tobacco and Arabidopsis as model systems.

The second project is focused on establishing modules “of investigative laboratories and bioinformatics exercises that engage students in the new technologies of RNA interference and computer-based genome analysis,” according to the grant’s abstract. Once the basics of RNAi are learned, students who have access to the proper resources are able to design their own experiments using the technology to examine C. elegans gene function. The project, which began in June 2004 and will wrap up in May 2006, has to date received more than $295,000 from the NSF.

To help set up the modules, CSHL is working with faculty at two- and four-year colleges and the Dolan DNA Learning Center, which is an operating unit of the institute focused on educating the public about genetics, the abstract states.

— Doug Macron



US Patent application 20040192629. Allele-specific RNA interference. Inventors: Zuoshang Xu, Phillip Zamore. Assignee: University of Massachusetts. Filed: November 4, 2003.

This invention finds a way to specifically inhibit a mutant allele while at the same time preserving function of the wild-type allele in heterozygotes. The patent also covers siRNAs and shRNAs that selectively suppress mutant expression (but not wild-type expression) of SOD1, a cause of inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.


US Patent application 20040192626. RNA interference mediated inhibition of gene expression using chemically modified short interfering nucleic acid (siNA). Inventors: James McSwiggen, Bharat Chowrira, Leonid Beigelman, Dennis Macejak, Shawn Zinnen, Pamela Pavco, Peter Haeberli, David Morrissey, Kathy Fosnaugh, Sharon Jamison, Nassim Usman, James Thompson, Chandra Vargeese, Weimin Wang, Tongqian Chen, Narendra Vaish. Filed: May 23, 2003.

This invention incorporates methods and tools to modulate gene expression for various applications using synthetic, chemically modified small nucleic acid molecules such as siRNAs, dsRNAs, miRNAs, and shRNAs.



$850 Million

Predicted value of the RNAi market in 2010, according to a recent report from Research and Markets. The report adds that the current market is worth an estimated $300 million. The market for RNAi-based drugs, it should be noted, is predicted to reach $3.5 billion by 2010.


Acuity Pharmaceuticals announces that US regulators at the FDA have approved the company’s investigational new drug application for its siRNA-based treatment of age-related macular degeneration.


Cyntellect receives a two-year, phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant worth $1.5 million from NHGRI to continue development of its laser-based transfection system for RNAi applications. The laser method can be used to transfect a variety of molecules, including siRNAs.


Nucleonics asks the US Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine an RNAi patent (number 6,573,099) held by Benitec and the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Nucleonics says that the patent claims are invalid due to lack of novelty based on documents previously filed by Nucleonics.


Invitrogen launches a Web portal that provides access to the company’s collection of bioinformatics tools, including free online tools for RNAi and primer design, searching, ordering, and project tracking. Bioinformatics Central can be reached through the company’s main website.


Evotec and Qiagen partner to promote the latter’s chemistry-based RNAi products with the former’s high-throughput confocal microscopy platform.


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