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CombiMatrix to Launch microRNA-Based Screen


CombiMatrix expects to have a microRNA-based cancer-screening test on the US market around the middle of next year, about five months after announcing that it had begun developing the product.

While the company recently released data showing that it can use mi-RNA signatures in serum to accurately distinguish healthy individuals from cancer patients, more work will need to be done before the test can meet a key goal of differentiating various types of cancer.

It remains to be seen whether CombiMatrix can fund that work; the company warned that it only has enough funds to continue operations into the fall if it is unable to raise additional capital.

According to Combi-Matrix CEO Amit Kumar, the so-called Comprehensive Cancer Array is designed to confirm the presence of cancer by analyzing miRNA-expression patterns in a patient's blood and identify the organ system in which the malignancy is growing.

Initially, he says, the company expects to market the test as a screen for cancers of the prostate, colon, ovaries, breast, and lung, but additional cancers may be added to the panel.

Like Rosetta Genomics and Exiqon, two other companies developing cancer tests based on miRNA signatures, CombiMatrix plans to market the CCA through an in-house Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified laboratory, which will require regulatory approval from state health agencies.

Unlike those other companies, however, Combi-Matrix's test won't be designed to diagnose a disease, but only to indicate whether a patient is a candidate for additional cancer testing.

Kumar likened the CCA to existing prostate cancer screens that measure blood levels of prostate-specific antigen and are routinely given to men at risk for the disease.

"What we're doing … is developing a PSA test across multiple cancers," he says. Should a patient's test indicate the presence of cancer, "a physician will recommend a subsequent workup … [to] do the final diagnosis."

—Doug Macron

RNAi Notes

Sigma-Aldrich introduced the Mission LentiPlex pooled human and murine shRNA libraries for a wide variety of cell lines including embryonic stem cells.

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and the University of Amsterdam have joined Thermo Fisher Scientific's RNAi Global Initiative.

MDRNA announced that its UsiRNAs could inhibit its target gene, apolipoprotein B, in a rodent model. UsiRNAs are duplexed -siRNAs with non-nucleotide acyclic monomers.

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals announced that the therapeutic index of its stable nucleic acid lipid particles, part of its siRNA delivery technology, could be improved by five to 10 times by adding novel lipids.


$20 million
Amount of Series A preferred equity Funding Regulus Therapeutics received from its parent companies.

Funded Grants

Regulation of Systemic RNA Interference in the Nematode C. elegans
Grantee: Jennifer Sung Whangbo, Harvard University
Began: Jan. 15, 2009; Ends Dec. 31, 2013

With these funds, Whangbo plans to uncover the mechanisms underlying the transmission of RNA-mediated silencing signals between cells and tissues in Caenorhabditis elegans. She will be using screens to identify and characterize the genes needed to propagate these signals and she will also be looking into the role of gap junction proteins in systemic RNAi.

Internalizing antibody-targeted nanosized siRNA therapeutics
Grantee: Bin Liu, University of California, San Francisco
Began: Dec. 5, 2008; Ends Nov. 30, 2010

Liu plans to develop siRNA therapeutics for prostate cancer. He will develop antibody-based nanosized siRNA delivery complexes by modifying scFvs and the study the best of targeting complexes in prostate cancer xenografts. Liu says that this work will "generate a panel of novel reagents for efficient and specific siRNA delivery in vivo to silence disease-causing genes."