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Synpromics Launches with Synthetic Promoter Technology

By Tony Fong

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Synpromics, which is developing synthetic promoters for applications in diagnostics development, gene therapeutics, and research use, has launched.

The company is currently in discussions with several life science vendors and gene therapeutics firms to codevelop and comarket the promoters, Michael Roberts, its founder and managing director, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

A synthetic promoter is a regulatory DNA sequence created by picking out the regulatory regions in a gene, "chopping them up," and then putting them back together, Roberts said. The promoters, which are active only in a specific gene-expression profile, are then used to control that specific gene activity in cells or tissue.

While Synpromics' synthetic promoters have applications mostly for research use and gene therapy development, Roberts said they also can be used to develop diagnostic tools as alternatives to immunoassays. The synthetic promoters have improved sensitivity over antibodies, he added.

Synpromics launched last week and is still in the process of getting off the ground. Roberts is currently an affiliated investigator at the University of Athens working on Neurocypress, a European Union project aimed at elevating knowledge of ligand-gated ion channel structures.

He said he expects to remain at the university until the second quarter of 2011, when he will relocate to Edinburgh, Scotland, and work full time for Synpromics. Previously, he held several positions at biopharmaceutical firm Regulon.

While he is in early discussions with several firms that offer gene expression vectors and gene therapeutic firms about possible partnerships and licensing deals, he did not want their identities disclosed.

So far, Roberts and Synpromics' one other employee have developed synthetic promoters using a proprietary method directed at colorectal cancer and HIV. They've done early work at creating promoters for lung cancer and are developing tissue specific promoters for the central nervous system, Roberts said.

Synpromics has raised no funds but will be looking to do so in order to pay for lab space the company will require when Roberts relocates to Edinburgh.

The technology and methods used to develop the synthetic promoters was developed by Roberts, who said the company does not plan on licensing them out. He is preparing to file patents in the EU for the technology and will publish a study describing it after the patent application has been filed.

Synpromics also plans to offer a service business for custom development of synthetic promoters.

"We want to target companies that are interested in regulating gene expression and we will custom design promoters for them," Roberts said.