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UPDATE: Ariad, Zygogen to Jointly Develop Zebrafish Models for Functional Genomics

This story has been updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, May 23 - Ariad Pharmaceuticals and Zygogen have agreed to jointly develop gene regulation technology based on Zygogen's transgenic zebrafish models, the companies said Wednesday.

The partnership will draw on Ariad's ARGENT technology for regulating the transcription of specific genes, and Zygogen's Z-Tag fluorescent-tagging technology to develop models for studying gene function in zebrafish.

In the long term, the two companies will look to sell the technology they develop to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, said Tim Clackson, vice president for gene therapy at Ariad. First, however, the companies have to merge the two technologies and demonstrate its utility, Clackson said.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Compared to mice, zebrafish have the potential to provide a cheaper and faster model system for studying the function of individual genes. Zygogen's Z-Tag technology relies on tags attached to genes that cause specific tissues or cell lines to fluoresce in the transparent fish, providing insight into gene function.

Ariad decided to partner with Zygogen primarily because "the Z-Tag technology appears to have great potential," said Clackson. 

Ariad's ARGENT gene regulation technology allows the company's scientists to control the transcription of specific genes with the help of proprietary small molecules, said Clackson. This allows both "knock-in," or over-expression, and knock-out of particular genes to study their function. 

"We're mostly interested in knock-in work," said Clackson, "but we're hoping that when we put the two technologies together we'll have unanticipated synergies. 

"That's the thing you can't really predict, but that's the kind of thing you hope comes out of it," he said.  
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