InteRNA Technologies and Cenix BioScience this week announced that they plan to use InteRNA’s microRNA library to co-develop functional screens for human cell lines.
An InteRNA official told CBA News this week that Cenix will apply InteRNA’s lentiviral-based miRNA-overexpression library to high-throughput screening assays in combination with high-content, multi-parametric phenotypic analyses to identify the biological role of individual miRNAs and novel therapeutic targets in oncology.
“We were looking to outsource a part of our R&D to a partner who had experience in high-throughput screens like this,” said Roel Schaapveld, InteRNA’s chief operating officer. “We looked around and we approached Cenix.”
He said Dresden, Germany-based Cenix has a good reputation in the market in terms of the science behind miRNA and RNAi. Cenix also has the facilities in place to do these high-throughput assays.
“Cenix’s unique expertise in small RNA-based high-throughput screening and phenotypic analyses will be instrumental in our drug-discovery programs,” Schaapveld said.
The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
As far as inking similar agreements with other partners, Schaapveld said, “I cannot say yet. We also have our internal R&D that we do in-house. This is just the part that we outsourced.”
He added that, in terms of the current collaboration with Cenix, depending on the outcomes of the initial screens, “we may expand the agreement, and enter in the next phase of the collaboration.” He did not say what that next step would be.
Although Schaapveld said it was difficult to say how long this initial phase of the project will last, he estimated that it could take six months to a year.
“Cenix’s unique expertise in small RNA-based high-throughput screening and phenotypic analyses will be instrumental in our drug discovery programs.”
Christophe Echeverri, CEO and chief scientific officer of Cenix, said in a statement that the company “appreciates the confidence that our colleagues at InteRNA have shown by commissioning Cenix to contribute in such a substantial manner to their discovery programs. The planned work promises very exciting scientific and technological challenges that are clearly in line with the recent of Cenix activities into the miRNA space.”
Echeverri told CBA News in an e-mail that, because Cenix has specialized in using RNAi technology for more than a decade, the company is also interested in miRNA-focused work, the demand for which has been increasing over the past year.
In March, for example, Cenix announced that it had penned a deal with AstraZeneca for RNAi-based drug discovery, and with CellCentric for RNAi-based target validation (see CBA News, 3/21/08). At the time, Echeverri told CBA News that both deals “are expected to be the first in a series of collaborations.”
Terms of the AstraZeneca deal called for Cenix to use its RNAi-based gene-silencing technology to perform phenotypic analyses of genes in cultured human cells to look for and validate undisclosed cancer targets provided by the British drug maker.
Terms of the CellCentric deal also called for Cenix to combine its gene-silencing technology with high-content phenotypic analyses of genes in cultured human cells, with the goal of validating in vitro several undisclosed cancer drug candidates. However, unlike the AstraZeneca agreement, the CellCentric deal did not include target discovery.
Echeverri said at the time that the AstraZeneca and CellCentric deals are “typical projects” for Cenix, but he added that “more recently we have been doing more and more cell-based studies of mechanisms of action.”
Echeverri said Cenix has done work in oncology, as well as in metabolic, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases. “We would like to do more in the CNS area, and we would also like to do more in immunology,” he added.
He also mentioned that Cenix would like to go beyond cell-based work and perform more RNAi-based in vivo target validation, and help advance the preclinical development of siRNAs as lead molecules.