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Roche and Exiqon to Co-Market Products for qPCR-based MicroRNA Profiling

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Roche and Exiqon have agreed to jointly market Roche Applied Science's RealTime ready custom quantitative PCR assays with Exiqon's miRcury LNA Universal RT microRNA qPCR system, the companies said this week.

The co-marketing agreement builds on a licensing agreement related to the same technologies that has been in place since at least 2005, when Roche licensed Exiqon's locked nucleic acid technology to manufacture qPCR assays based on its universal probe library.

Roche and Exiqon amended that agreement in 2008 to extend Roche's rights to sell and distribute ProbeLibrary products.

The agreement also provides an entry point for Roche in the burgeoning miRNA field, Burkhard Ziebolz, head of global communication for Roche Diagnostics, told PCR Insider in an e-mail.

"Roche Applied Science has a long history with Exiqon," Ziebolz said. "The new agreement fits perfectly: We are active in qPCR assays but not in microRNA assays, and vice versa."

"Expression analysis and profiling on the microRNA level is a growing field," particularly in cancer research, as evidenced by the increasing number of publications on the topic, Ziebolz said.

Roche's RealTime ready qPCR assays are based on the company's universal probe library, which comprises 165 short hydrolysis probes incorporating Exiqon's LNA technology to detect 8- and 9-mer motifs in the human transcriptome.

Customers can select targets from lists of genes or functionally related gene families or biological pathways. The assays can be ordered individually or as a custom panel on a LightCycler 480 multiwell plate, Roche said.

Exiqon's LNAs are RNA derivatives that contain a ring structure in their backbone, locking the molecules in a specific configuration and ideal binding conformation. When incorporated into a DNA oligonucleotide, LNA makes the pairing with a complementary nucleotide strand more rapid and increases the stability of the resulting duplex.

In PCR applications, this feature allows shorter probes and primers with higher specificity, no mismatches, and stronger binding, according to Exiqon.

These features allow accurate quantification of very low amounts of miRNA obtained from difficult samples such as formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue, serum or plasma, and laser capture microscopy, Exiqon said.

The product line includes PCR panels for expression profiling of human and rodent miRNAs; individual miRNA assays; reference genes; and reagent kits, including for Roche's LightCycler 480 system.

As part of the new co-marketing agreement, the companies said they will engage in joint promotional activities such as webinars and seminars.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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