What economic downturn? If you ask CEO William Matthews, Deltagen’s moment is now.
When Deltagen was founded about four years ago, “we anticipated that the genome would be available but the major bottleneck would be in determining function,” Matthews says. “This is where the work really starts.”
Long before the drug discovery bandwagon started picking up passengers, Deltagen staked its claim in the now-popular turf. GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer subscribe to Deltagen’s database, which provides information on gene function. “What the genome has done is put us knee-deep in poorly validated targets,” Matthews says. “The crux of the matter is bringing forward quality targets.”
To that end, Deltagen has set its hopes on the recently established international genome research consortium. Deltagen, which has worked extensively with the knockout mouse model, and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto founded the consortium and focused its study on the mouse genome. “They really want to be able to use the mouse as a launchpad for being able to decipher function in the [human] genome,” Matthews says. “Once you have the function of a gene … you have really jump-started the drug process.”
The consortium will be led by Janet Rossant, who runs the mouse-based Rossant Lab at Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute. The idea is to use a number of different approaches, including genetrap and mutagenesis, to glean as much information as possible from the mouse genome. In addition to the financial support Deltagen provided, the consortium will be seeking funding from the Canadian government and NIH. “They have very ambitious plans,” Matthews says. So, it appears, does Deltagen.
— Meredith Salisbury