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RNAi Roundup: Technology Makes Splash on Both Sides of Atlantic

NEW YORK, April 11 -  RNA interference is dazzling the research community, according to an article published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


Given feedback at recent conferences and the number of journal articles being published using this technology, it appears that the article's authors are on to something.


This technology, which is also called siRNA, or short interfering RNA, consists of a short double-stranded sequence of RNA that is inserted into a cell, and consequently triggers the destruction of the mRNA from a gene that is complementary to the sequence inserted.


Last week, at the BioAnalytica conference in Munich, representatives at the Ambion booth said that about 90 percent of their visits were from people inquiring about RNAi. The company has other RNA products, but introduced a genome-wide siRNA library along with Cenix Bioscience in late March.


Proligo, another RNAi supplier that exhibited at the conference, also said that their RNAi products were drawing abundant interest.


Then this week, Ribopharma of Kulmbach, Germany, followed on the European RNAi enthusiasm wave by announcing that its siRNA technology - for which USpatents are pending - is available for out-licensing by those interested in using the technology for target validation. The non-exclusive licenses, it said, will not include use for development of therapeutics, which the company plans to keep for itself.


On the other side of the Atlantic, RNAi had promised to figure prominently in new technologies buzzing through the halls of the American Academy for Cancer Research meeting in Toronto, before the conference was cancelled due to the SARS epidemic. Still, the meeting's proceedings included 40 posters on RNAi, including one by Ribopharma researchers on using the technology to inhibit epidermal growth factors (EGF-R), a gene commonly altered in malignant glioma.


Additionally, Cell Therapeutics of Seattle announced results that it was going to present at the meeting, in which company researchers found that RNAi could be used to trigger tumor apoptosis by knockdown of the gene LPAAT-beta, which encodes the lipid phosphatidic acid. The RNAi-mediated inhibition of phosphatidic acid production worked to inhibit tumor growth, they said, because this lipid is a cofactor for molecules in pathways critical to tumor growth. Inhibition of this pathway, they said, inhibits growth of stromal cells that support the tumor, but not other cells.


Meanwhile, six scientific articles involving RNAi hit the presses this week, two involving applications in cancer. In Clinical Cancer Research, a group from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center published on the use of 21-mer siRNAs to inhibit beta catenin in order to inhibit growth of colon cancer cells in both agar and in mice. Another four papers reported research using RNAi to study ontogeny of C. elegans, Drosophila, the beetle Tribolium, and mice, respectively, while two remaining papers looked at more basic research questions: one applied the technology to knock out integrin linked kinase (ILK) in order to determine the role it plays in phosphorylation of protein kinase, while a second used RNAi in Drosophila to look at the function of the proteasome REG PA28gamma.


Given this steady stream of both research and business activity, RNAi is likely to be a hot area for the immediate future.


This is the first installment of a weekly roundup of RNAi-related developments around the world. To contact GenomeWeb about any RNAi-related news you may have, please email: [email protected].

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