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Cytoo to Lead $5.3M EU Project to Adapt Cell Chips for RNAi Screening

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Cytoo will coordinate a new European consortium that will rely on the firm's micropattern array platform to develop a high-throughput approach to RNAi screening in cultured cells.

The European Commission has awarded €4.3 million ($5.3 million) to support the Micropattern-Enhanced High Throughput RNA Interference for Cell Screening, or MEHTRICS, Consortium, the Grenoble, France-based firm said this week. The project is being supported through the EC's Seventh Framework Program.

Others taking part in the project are Cenix Bioscience, a Heidelberg, Germany-based company that specializes in RNAi screening; the Center for Quantitative Analysis of Molecular and Cellular Biosystems at Heidelberg University; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland; and the Center for Physical Sciences and Technology in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Vitamib, a Grenoble-based firm that oversees collaborative research projects, will manage the MEHTRICS Consortium's administrative and financial activities, Cytoo said.

Alexandra Fuchs, chief operating officer at Cytoo, said in a statement that initial studies of the firm's technology have already begun to "reveal its promise for enhancing the quality of high-content analysis."

It is unclear to what extent Cytoo's chips have been used in RNAi screening in the past, but the firm has not actively marketed this application for its platform. An e-mail to the firm seeking comment was not returned in time for this publication.

According to the statement, the MEHTRICS Consortium aims to combine high-throughput applications of RNAi with Cytoo's ability to normalize cultured cells' behavior by growing them on adhesive micropatterns. The consortium members hope to gain "know-how for micropattern-enhanced cell-based assays with a very broad range of applicability," Cytoo said. Ultimately, the proof of principle for the optimized methodologies will include "several test-scale RNAi screens focused on basic and disease-relevant processes."

Christophe Echeverri, chief executive and scientific officer at Cenix, said in a statement that since the experimental designs required for RNAi screens are "among the most demanding" of all high-throughput/high-content studies in cultured cells, Cenix expects the consortium's activities to deliver the "maximal potential for impactful innovation, widespread adoption, and clear relevance for all major applications of HT/HC cell screening, from RNAi to miRNA modulation to analyses of drug action."

According to the project description, the MEHTRICS Consortium aims specifically to optimize micropattern geometries and compositions to accommodate extended timelines typical of siRNA assays; to integrate the company's "transfected cell array technique" to decrease cost and increase throughput; to develop cell models of "key" diseases based on micropatterned adult stem cells and polarized epithelia or endothelial architectures; and to validate each of these implementations in "key, industry-relevant siRNA screening applications."

Further details of the collaboration were not discussed.

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