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Duke Buys Large-Scale Screening System


Duke University's RNAi Facility, which was established in 2005 to expand university researchers' access to the gene-silencing technology, has purchased a custom-made Velocity 11 system that will allow the facility to perform genome-wide screening experiments.

In February, the core facility received a $276,599 grant from the National Center for Research Resources to purchase the instrument system, which will provide "the automation required for RNAi library formatting, plate handling, liquid dispensing, plate sealing, and plate identification/management," according to the grant abstract. The system was pre-configured by Velocity 11, which was acquired in December by Agilent Technologies, "for the multiple workflow options necessary to maintain and deliver siRNA libraries via lipid-based transfection or viral-based transduction of mammalian cells, while maintaining the flexibility to be useful in small-molecule library screening," the abstract adds. Once installed, it will "complete the suite of tools necessary to make whole-genome, RNAi-based screening a reality for the Duke research community."
The grant will also be used to purchase a Baker BioProtect bio-containment enclosure for use with the instrument system.

James Pearson, manager of the RNAi Facility, says that the system is expected to be in place by June, at which point the facility will run a series of pilot screens in order to "fully vet our standard operating procedure so that when we do start providing [screening services], we can ensure the product will be there."

Noting that "we don't want to have any guinea pigs other than ourselves," he says that the first pilot study is likely to involve the research of Mariano Garcia-Blanco, who is the director of the RNAi Facility and the Duke Center for RNA Biology.

One of Garcia-Blanco's interests is in alternative splicing of the fibroblast growth factor receptor-2 transcripts and its role in prostate cancer progression, Pearson explains.

— Doug Macron

RNAi Notes

Rosetta Genomics received notices of allowance for two of its US patent applications covering human and viral miRNAs. One application is related to two clustered human hairpins and their related miRNAs, and the other is on miRNA US5-1, a viral microRNA found in human cytomegalovirus.

Invitrogen licensed the rights to Genisphere's 3DNA dendrimer signal-amplification technology in fluorescent microRNA microarray labeling kits. The kits will also contain Invitrogen's Alexa Fluor fluorescent dyes.

Arrowhead Research took active control over subsidiaries Insert Therapeutics and Calando Pharmaceuticals, an RNAi drug developer. The move came a month after Insert and Calando agreed to merge. 


Miltenyi Biotec launched its miRXplore microRNA-specific microarray kits that contain more than 2,700 mammalian and viral miRNAs. 

Funded grants

Development of RNAi as Treatment for Neurodegeneration
Grantee: Kenneth Kosik, UC-Santa Barbara
Began: Sep. 15, 2007; Ends: June 30, 2012
With this grant, the group plans to study how RNAi could be implemented as a treatment for neurodegeneration, particularly with Alzheimer's disease. The researchers hypothesize that targeting mRNA, rather than proteins involved in Alzheimer's disease, will be easier. They plan to design a highly specific inhibitory RNAi-based agent to slow, or even halt, disease progression. 

RNAi, Histone Modification, and the DDB1/CPSF-like Complex Rik1
Grantee: Robert Martienssen, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Began: Aug. 1, 2007; Ends: July 31, 2011
Researchers will use this grant to investigate how RNAi mediates heterochromatin in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. They will also look at how transcripts are initiated by Pol II and then processed by RNAi, and how Rik I is recruited by RNAi. Furthermore, they will study how these processes affect histone methylation and demethylation and interactions with the nuclear envelope.

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