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Somagenics Wins NIH Grant for Tech to Quantify mRNA from Degraded Samples

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Santa Cruz, California-based Somagenics has won a Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop a technology for quantitative real-time PCR of fragmented RNA samples.

The funding — $287,788 over nine months — comes from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The firm also received a $300,000 SBIR from the National Cancer Institute in 2012 to develop the method.

The technology, called resQ-RNA, enables analysis of RNA fragments as short as 23 nucleotides, the firm said in a statement — it is mainly applicable to formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded biopsy tissues, but can also be used for degraded forensics samples. The method uses rolling-circle amplification to generate concatemeric cDNA that is then amplified with PCR. The repeated sequences of the cDNA allow the use of PCR primers that are span almost the entire length of each repeat, allowing analysis of sequences slightly longer than the typical primer, the firm said.

The core technology is employed in Somagenics' related qPCR methods for the analysis of microRNA, miR-ID and miR-Direct, the firm noted. The NIH grant will fund the development of assays for an expanded repertoire of RNA targets including transcripts relevant to breast cancer, and Somagenics will also develop custom assays for existing known targets.

ResQ-RNA "has great potential to help transform huge archives of biopsy specimens that currently languish in hospital collections into resources that researchers can analyze," said Somagenics CEO Brian Johnston in a statement.

Last year, Somagenics also received two one-year grants — $350,000 to develop a targeted extracellular mRNA sequencing method called miR-SEQ and $683,474 for a method to accelerate wound healing using RNAi.