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Aventis Researchers Considering the Use of Dharmacon, Akceli Technology in RNAi Work

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Researchers at the Aventis Cambridge Genomics Center are in talks to buy a broad set of siRNAs from Dharmacon and are mulling over taking a license to Akceli’s reverse transfection siRNA microarray technology to bolster their efforts to identify genes that confer sensitivity or resistance to the breast and lung cancer drug Taxotere, RNAi News has learned.

Aventis recently began using RNAi to identify genes that affect the efficacy of Taxotere in hopes of developing small molecule compounds that can be used in conjunction with the drug or creating diagnostics that can be used to select the right patients for Taxotere therapy. Dorre Grueneberg, RNAi platform head at the Aventis Cambridge Genomics Center, presented data last week showing that the company has used siRNAs to find five genes that confer sensitivity to the drug and two that confer resistance. (See RNAi News, 11/07/03.)

Two of the sensitivity-conferring genes have been presented to Aventis’ oncology group, she added, which is interested in using them as targets for new drugs.

The roughly 100 siRNAs that Grueneberg and colleagues have been using thus were selected through a process of educated guessing, she said. To improve their chances of knocking down the right genes, they are hoping to purchase from Dharmacon a set of siRNAs against 5,000 druggable genes. Discussions are underway to purchase the 10,000 siRNAs (two for each gene) sometime this year, but Grueneberg said that it is unclear whether the Aventis Cambridge Genomics Center has the necessary $285,000 in its 2003 budget. “It may have to wait until next year,” she said.

The Aventis Cambridge Genomics Center is also interested in using Akceli’s technology to help it look at the effects of multiple gene interactions on specific drugs rather than just individual genes, Grueneberg said.

Akceli, based in Medford, Mass., makes these arrays by spotting siRNAs on a glass slide, then placing a layer of cells over them, causing the cells to be transfected with the siRNA. A treatment can then be added to the cell layer, which is fluorescently stained, in order to determine its effect on cells in which different genes are silenced.

She noted that a deal with Akceli is far from being signed; Akceli, in fact, has not yet been contacted by Aventis, she said. However, a plan to forge such a deal is “on the table.”

—DM