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Sigma Targets Academics with Partnership Program

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Sigma-Aldrich has established a partnership program designed to strengthen ties between the company and academic users of its RNAi and other functional genomics products, as well as boost the company’s visibility in the RNAi space.

The first alliance under the so-called RNAi Partnership Program has been formed with Rutgers University, according to Sigma-Aldrich.

The deal also represents the latest step in a trend among some RNAi reagent firms that want to set themselves apart from their competitors — an important point for Sigma-Aldrich, which is a relative latecomer to the RNAi party.

According to Doug Johnson, market segment manager for functional genomics at Sigma-Aldrich, the company set up the program as “a way to develop partnerships with academic institutions.”

Participants in the program will get early access to new Sigma-Aldrich technologies, and will have a dedicated support team to assist with products from the company’s functional genomics product portfolio, which includes the Mission TRC shRNA libraries developed in conjunction with the Broad Institute’s RNAi Consortium.

“We wanted to be more than just a supplier of reagents,” Johnson says. Additionally, Sigma-Aldrich hopes the program will educate researchers who previously hadn’t thought of the company as a life sciences player.

“One of the things we had heard in the past was … people saying, ‘I didn’t realize Sigma provided these kinds of reagents. I didn’t know Sigma had quantitative PCR or reagents … for proteomics’” or any of the other tools used in gene-knockdown experiments, Johnson says. “There are still a lot of people who think of us … as [providing] chemicals first and not necessarily some of the more biotech-related products. [The program] definitely helps us let them know about those sorts of things.”

— Doug Macron

Short Reads

Publishing in Nature Methods, EMBL researchers have described their development of an automated, high-throughput platform that incorporates video imaging to bring time-lapse microscopy to genome-wide RNAi screens. The team, led by Jan Ellenberg, is collaborating with other European researchers to make the technology widely available.

Merck Research Laboratories, hoping to improve the efficiency of siRNA assay runs in its Automated Biotechnology Laboratories, will help Cerionx optimize its cold-plasma process for automated pipette tip cleaning.

Australian RNAi drug firm Benitec has cut half of its US workforce and begun moving to a less-expensive facility as part of a cost-reduction effort expected to save about $4 million a year. The company has also begun exploring the possible merger, acquisition, or divestiture options for its US operations.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to collaborate on the discovery of RNAi-based drugs for biodefense.

Following the company’s sale of its RNAi therapeutics assets to Nastech Pharmaceuticals in February, Galenea has officially realigned itself to focus exclusively on discovering and developing non-RNAi drugs to treat central nervous system diseases.

PATENT WATCH

US patent application 20060089324. RNAi modulation of RSV, PIV, and other respiratory viruses and uses thereof. Inventor: Sailen Barik. Filed: June 14, 2005.

This invention is based on an in vivo demonstration of RSV and PIC inhibition via the intranasal and parenteral administration of RNAi agents. The application suggests that viral reduction can be achieved with more than one virus being treated concurrently. Based on these findings, the invention provides compositions and methods that are able to reduce respiratory virus mRNA levels, protein levels, and viral titers in subjects.

US patent application 20060073127. Therapeutic alteration of transplantable tissues through in situ or ex vivo exposure to RNA interference molecules. Inventors: Timothy Kowalik and Marc Uknis. Assignee: University of Massachusetts Medical School. Filed: July 11, 2005.

This invention concerns the discovery of methods of effectively delivering an RNAi agent (which includes siRNAs) to a transplantable tissue. Agents described in the application can be delivered as “naked” molecules or by using liposomal and other modes of delivery to tissues. Delivery can occur either via perfusion of the RNAi agent in solution through the vasculature of whole or partial organs, or else through the bathing, injection, or other treatment of transplantable cells with RNAi agents.

Datapoint

~7,500

For a sub-genomic library representing roughly one-tenth of the human genome, Louis Staudt of the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research has cultivated about 7,500 shRNA vectors used to identify cancer-relevant pathways.

The Scan

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