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RNAi Keeps Cooking; Will Dharmacon Be Hottest?


Three years after RNA interference was named Science’s breakthrough of the year, the market for the gene-silencing technology has only heated up — and with it the competition among reagent providers.

The competition appears to be healthy for at least one company: Dharmacon. The firm continues to sign deals for its RNAi products with high-profile companies and institutes and is preparing to announce the largest siRNA deal in its history as it expands its staff with a newly created director of marketing position to meet new challenges.

An early mover in the field of RNAi reagents, Dharmacon has had its work cut out for it in recent years competing for market share against some of the biggest names in the life sciences sector, such as Invitrogen and Sigma-Aldrich.

Dharmacon has had some help as it works to maintain its edge against these and other rivals. Early last year, the company was snapped up by Fisher Scientific for $80 million in cash. Since then, Dharmacon has released its siGenome siRNA collection, which targets the entire human genome, and its siArray RFT siRNA libraries, designed to be used in a reverse-transfection format. The company has also found a road to the Asian market by signing on GE Healthcare as its exclusive distributor in Japan, while benefiting from the European marketing presence of Perbio, another recent Fisher Scientific acquisition.

Most recently, Dharmacon signed a deal to provide London-based charity Cancer Research UK with siRNA libraries for use in its research efforts. Dharmacon said in April that it would initially provide Cancer Research UK with libraries targeting protein kinase genes and associated pathways for use by scientists studying signal transduction, protein phosphorylation, secretory pathways, and biochemical regulatory mechanisms.

— Doug Macron




US Patent application 20050079610. RNA interference mediated inhibition of Fos gene expression using short interfering nucleic acid (siNA). Inventors: Barry Polisky, James McSwiggen, Leonid Beigelman. Assignee: Sirna Therapeutics. Filed: August 20, 2004.

According to the abstract, “this invention relates to compounds, compositions, and methods useful for modulating c-Fos gene expression using short interfering nucleic acid (siNA) molecules [as well as for] modulating the expression and activity of other genes involved in pathways of c-Fos gene expression and/or activity by RNA interference (RNAi) using small nucleic acid molecules.”


US Patent application 20050070497. RNA interference mediated inhibition of tyrosine phosphatase-1B (PTP-1B) gene expression using short interfering nucleic acid (siNA). Inventors: James McSwiggen, Leonid Beigelman, Nassim Usman. Assignee: Sirna Therapeutics. Filed: July 19, 2004.

This patent covers “compounds, compositions, and methods useful for modulating protein tyrosine phosphatase-1B (PTP-1B) gene expression using short interfering nucleic acid (siNA) molecules,” according to the abstract.




An antisense agent targeting heat shock protein 27, which is overexpressed in many tumors and is associated with drug resistance, developed by OncoGenex. The therapeutic is expected to enter clinical trials in 2006.


Isis Pharmaceuticals announced that it would begin developing an antisense-based treatment — ISIS 369645 — for asthma and pulmonary disease.


CytRx completed enrollment in a phase I trial of a DNA-based HIV vaccine. This milestone, which is designed to determine the safety and tolerability of varying dosages and means of taking the vaccine, occurred six months ahead of schedule, according to the company.


Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Veridix will market a custom version of Qiagen’s RNeasy nucleic acid purification kit as part of its molecular diagnostics offering, Qiagen announced. The kit will be used to purify RNA particularly on lymph node samples for oncology testing and monitoring during surgery.


System Biosciences announced that its siRNA libraries for the whole human and mouse genomes will be made available to a consortium of Japaneses researchers at labs from various institutes, including Osaka University, Nagoya University, Tokyo Medical University, and the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Sciences, among others. The consortium was organized by B-Bridge International.


Dharmacon will supply Millennium Pharmaceuticals with its genome-wide siRNA library, which corresponds to approximately 22,000 human genes. Millennium plans to use the library for drug discovery and target validation.


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