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EMBL Screen for Mitosis Genes Nears Halfway Mark


The European Molecular Biology Laboratory is approximately halfway through a human genome-wide siRNA screen to identify genes involved in cell division, the research organization announced this summer.

The screen, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, is part of a larger project called MitoCheck that is focused on determining how phosphorylation regulates mitosis in human cells.

“We’re using a combined approach of functional genomics, chemical genomics, structural biology, and, in the end, pharmacology” to investigate mitosis, says Jan Ellenberg, group leader at EMBL and a MitoCheck co-initiator.

The first step of MitoCheck, he says, is a genome-wide RNAi screen “to identify genes that are necessary for cells to divide. Those are obviously the interesting ones to look at [to see if] the proteins [they make] are regulated by phosphorylation in their activity.” He adds, “There are many genes that are phosphorylated, but if they don’t make any difference for cell division, then they are interesting in the context of mitosis.”

Supplying the siRNA library for this screen is Ambion, which was chosen over “several companies” by MitoCheck, Ellenberg says. He notes that a “decisive factor” in the selection of Ambion was the oligo design algorithm the company uses, which was created by EMBL spin-out Cenix BioScience.

MitoCheck was established in 2004 and is a four-year effort being funded by a roughly €8.5 million ($10.3 million) endowment from the European Union. Its members include the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Austria; EMBL; Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum in Germany; Leica Microsystems Heidelberg; the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics; Gene Bridges, based in Germany; the European Institute of Oncology in Italy; Centre de Recherches de Biochimie Macromoléculaire in France; Cancer Research UK; the University College London; and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK.

— Doug Macron


Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has granted a non-exclusive license for its RNA interference patents to MWG Biotech, enabling that company to provide research products and services in RNA interference. Not long before, Alnylam gave similar licenses to Sigma-Aldrich and to life science reagent supplier Eurogentec.


The United Kingdom Patent Office has granted Sirna Therapeutics two patents covering vascular endothelial growth factor and hepatitis C as siRNA targets.


As MIT’s breach-of-contract and patent-infringement suit against Dharmacon and its parent company Fisher Scientific moves forward, the parties have been unable to resolve a number of scheduling matters, leading to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts handing down a discovery and trial schedule for the litigants. The court also determined that the parties should try to hash out their differences out of court, and has referred the case to mediation for this fall.


City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute granted an exclusive license for its Dicer-substrate RNAi technology to oligo manufacturer Integrated DNA Technologies for research and functional genomics applications.


Sirna Therapeutics saw its stock surge after publishing results showing that it was able to achieve a significant knockdown of hepatitis B virus in mice using therapeutically relevant doses of lipid-encapsulated, chemically modified siRNAs.



US Patent 6,924,109. High-throughput transcriptome and functional validation analysis. Inventors: Thorsten Melcher; Keith McFarland; Li Gan; Shiming Ye; Mirella Gonzalez-Zulueta. Assignee: AGY Therapeutics. Issued: August 2, 2005.

This patent includes “methods for correlating genes and gene function,” and some of those methods “utilize RNA interference techniques in the validation process,” according to the abstract.


US Patent 6,916,633. Method for linear mRNA amplification. Inventor: Karen Shannon. Assignee: Agilent Technologies. Issued: July 12, 2005.

“Methods for linearly amplifying mRNA to produce antisense RNA are provided. In the subject methods, mRNA is converted to double-stranded cDNA using a promoter-primer having a poly-dT primer site linked to a promoter sequence so that the resulting double-stranded cDNA is recognized by an RNA polymerase. The … cDNA is then transcribed into antisense RNA in the presence of a reverse transcriptase.”



The price to purchase 1/1,000 of one share of Series A junior preferred Alnylam stock, according to a new shareholder rights plan designed to prevent the possibility of hostile takeover.



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