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Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland Adopts Aushon Arrayer for Cell-Screening Program


By Justin Petrone

The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, or FIMM, will launch a cell microarray screening research program that uses Aushon BioSystems' 2470 Arrayer, Aushon said last week.

The program will consist of miniaturized RNAi screens, and in the future will include compound/drug arrays.

Launched in 2006, Aushon’s 2470 microarrayer enables users to print DNA, proteins, cell lysates, and other samples using its pin-based deposition technology. The system is automated and allows users to print onto various substrates, including slides, membranes, microtiter well plates, disks, wafers, and chips, according to the Billerica, Mass.-based firm.

FIMM is a joint research institute operated by the University of Helsinki in collaboration with the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, or HUS; the National Institute for Health and Welfare; and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Through its Technology Centre, FIMM provides services to national and international collaborators.

FIMM Director Olli Kallioniemi said in a statement last week that one of the new institute's primary applications will be siRNA cell microarray screening, and that the program will rely partially on existing technology developed by Kallioniemi and colleagues at the Turku-based VTT.

"We believe that our technology … is ground-breaking and will provide an exciting opportunity for miniaturized, genome-scale cell biology and cellular pharmacology," Kallioniemi said. "As we are using an unusual siRNA, lipid, matrix combination as a printing mixture, the ability of the 2470’s solid pin deposition technology to handle complex samples is promising."

Alan Poon, director of marketing at Aushon, told BioArray News this week that FIMM's program will rely on a standard version of the 2470 microarray printing platform, and that the company will be "supplying support relative only to optimizing their particular printing applications as required."

Poon added that Aushon has experience with siRNA cell microarray screening, but said that "these other collaborations are confidential at the moment."

According to Poon, the 2470 has been installed in "leading institutions" in North America, Europe, and Asia. The firm has only so far publicly disclosed the placements at FIMM and George Mason University.

Kallioniemi could not be reached to comment in time for this publication. In 2008, he told BioArray News that he and colleagues had developed a new application, called ultra high-throughput screening with cell arrays, to the point where it was regularly being used in many research programs. At the time, he said that VTT wanted to develop a cell array-manufacturing resource for academics that made use of the technology (see BAN 9/16/2008).

Also at the time, Kallioniemi said the cell array work was supported with funding from the €9 million ($12.7 million) MolTools consortium project, financed by the EU through its sixth framework program, which ended in 2007. He said that the platform allowed the manufacture of whole-genome RNA interference screening.

"The previously available cell arrays are much lower in their throughput," Kallioniemi said. "I don’t think that anyone has achieved a whole-genome cell array screening to be done in a routine way. Essentially, we are talking about whole-genome experiments in a miniaturized format on a single plate."

He added at the time that the "final frontier" for the technology would be live imaging of each cell on the arrays.

Additionally, Kallioniemi said at the time that the cell arrays could be used to study cellular functions, to explore pathways and genes that are thought to be essential for disease development, and identify possibilities for intervention. They could also be used for pharmacogenomics studies. He said at the time that VTT was interested in licensing the technology so it could be commercialized.

"I see us as the early-stage proof-of-principle and demonstration site that can show that this works, has some IP that has made the critical components go forward, and can work with industry to license it out, collaborate, propagate, and so forth," he said.

Nordic-EMBL Inauguration

Separately last week, the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine officially inaugurated FIMM.

FIMM is the newest member of the three-year-old partnership, which also includes the Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway, based at the University of Oslo, and the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, based at Umeå University.

FIMM employs 150 people in 11 research groups and five technology groups. The research groups study cancer and cardiovascular, neuro-psychiatric, and viral diseases. FIMM also carries out translational research designed to explore new diagnostics and treatments, and seeks to promote human health through research on personalized medicine, according to the organization.

Kallioniemi said in a statement that the institute's advanced technologies "enable us to investigate molecular mechanisms of disease using genomics and medical systems biology helping us to bridge from discovery to medical applications."