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NIH Forms RNAi Committee to Assess Available Tools, Mull Procurement Models

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The National Institutes of Health has formed a committee charged with making recommendations to the NIH’s scientific directors on how best to improve their institutes’ access to RNAi technologies, GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication RNAi News reported last week.
Last Monday, the committee hosted an informational meeting on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., where representatives from a dozen RNAi reagent and tool companies met to discuss their products and field questions as the agency considers how to expand the availability of RNAi technologies to its researchers.
The meeting followed a solicitation that NIH issued last month seeking industry partners who might be interested in entering pricing arrangements to support research using RNAi-based tools within its institutes.
Brian Oliver, chief of the developmental genomics section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and member of the RNAi committee, told RNAi News last week that the meeting was partly a sort of tradeshow for the committee members who might not be aware of all the RNAi technologies available.
Companies that presented at the NIH event included Biolog, Cellecta, Invitrogen, Amaxa Biosystems, Open Biosystems, Integrated DNA Technologies, Applied Biosystems, Sigma-Aldrich, Cellectricon, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Qiagen, and Bioo Scientific.
Oliver said the RNAi committee is expected to brief the NIH’s scientific directors on the event and provide recommendations. He stressed, however, that the directors “will have to decide what they want to do” to improve access to RNAi technologies by the NIH’s intramural researchers.  
Natasha Caplen, a senior scientist in the National Cancer Institute and head of the Center for Cancer Research’s gene silencing section and member of the RNAi committee, noted during a presentation at the meeting that since 2005, 18 of the NIH’s 27 institutes published data from experiments in which RNAi technology was used.
“But … we want to make [it so that] even more investigators within all of the institutes who want to use [RNAi technologies] can use these resources and think about how it can be applied to their research,” Caplen said.
RNAi has the potential to “impact a very broad range of scientific goals,” she said. “But this means that there aren’t one-fits-all answers for any individual institute and any individual investigator.”
Oliver said that the RNAi committee has considered a purchasing model under which the agency would purchase a large siRNA or shRNA collection and set up “what amounts to a storefront on the NIH campus that would distribute [products] to individual users.”
While this approach would allow the NIH to buy large quantities of reagents at low prices, “we [worry] about the risk to the NIH by committing to a [specific] library when it has to be re-designed with every release of the [human] genome,” he said.
While questions remain regarding the purchasing model that NIH may use for these technologies, Oliver told those attending the meeting that the ultimate goal for the RNAi committee “is making procurement easier.”
“For the average bench-top scientist, we want everything to be streamlined … so they can be more productive [and] do work asking scientific questions and not talking to vendors.”

The complete version of this article appears in the current issue of RNAi News.

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