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Bagging Qiagen, CytoPathfinder Picks Up siRNAs, Partner With Global Reach for Its Microarray Tools

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CytoPathfinder, a Japanese startup developing microarrays and drug-delivery technologies, last week said that Qiagen will supply it siRNAs for use on its transfection microarray for high-throughput RNAi screening.

CytoPathfinder said the deal not only gives it access to Qiagen's HiPerformance siRNA design algorithm, which it licensed from Novartis in late 2003 (see RNAi News, 12/19/2003), but a partner with a global reach — something that could prove vital for the Japanese startup as it eyes overseas markets.

Though Qiagen's siRNA content means CytoPathfinder's system is ready to be commercialized, the company plans to use it initially only in research collaborations it has formed with Japanese pharmaceutical firms.

Established in December 2004, CytoPathfinder has developed a reverse-transfection technology that it is applying to its transfection microarrays. According to the company, the technology involves ink jet spotting siRNAs onto high-density glass slides. Cells are then placed on the slides where they take up the siRNAs.

CytoPathfinder noted that the transfection microarrays, which can be used with various mammalian cells including primary cells and stem cells, can analyze the functions of roughly 1,500 genes with 10 ml of cell culture medium.


"We'll reference CytoPathfinder [to our customers] if people are interested in this kind of platform. The information will be on our website and their website, [and] we'll cross-reference each others' products."

Specific terms of the CytoPathfinder/Qiagen deal were not disclosed, but Walter Tian, RNAi business director for Qiagen, told RNAi News this week that the arrangement calls for his company to provide siRNA content for the microarrays as well as a certain level of marketing assistance.

"We'll reference CytoPathfinder [to our customers] if people are interested in this kind of platform," he said. "The information will be on our website and their website, [and] we'll cross-reference each others' products."

Tian noted that while in the early stages of the partnership, Qiagen will "simply refer [interested parties] to CytoPathfinder, … in the long run, there is an interest in Qiagen working with CytoPathfinder to develop new offerings or eventually distribute their products."

This, however, "is a possibility down the road," he added.

"As a start-up company with a limited marketing arm, we are pleased to be partnering with Qiagen to deliver the siRNA arrays or provide high-throughput transfection services to the global siRNA research community," CytoPathfinder CSO Masato Miyake told RNAi News in an e-mail. He added that "a series of array products will be manufactured in a stepwise manner, such as tyrosine kinase set, kinase set, phosphatase set, whole genome set, et cetera."

Miyake said in the e-mail that with the addition of Qiagen's siRNA content to CytoPathfinder's transfection microarrays, the system is ready to be commercialized. However, the company plans to use it initially only in research collaborations currently in place with Japanese drug makers. At this point, CytoPathfinder is still weighing its options for marketing the arrays or high-throughput screening services to international customers.

"As for the launch of [the] total system outside of Japan, it may take a bit more time depending upon our business environment and legal/regulatory issues," Miyake said.

One of those issues could possibly be an intellectual property one, given the similarities between CytoPathfinder's reverse-transfection technology and the one marketed by Dharmacon.

Dharmacon began developing its reverse-transfection technology through a collaboration with now-defunct microarray shop Akceli, which held the rights to a key patent owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (see RNAi News, 10/22/2004).

That patent, No. 6,544,790 and entitled "Reverse Transfection Method," covers "a reverse transfection method of introducing DNA of interest into cells and arrays, including microarrays, of reverse transfected cells." Although MIT sued Dharmacon for allegedly infringing this patent, the dispute was settled out of court (see RNAi News, 1/5/2006).


"As for the launch of [the] total system outside of Japan, it may take a bit more time depending upon our business environment and legal/regulatory issues."

When asked about the similarities between Dharmacon's reverse-transfection technology and CytoPathfinder's, Miyake said his company is also protected by US and Japanese patents.

He noted in his e-mail that CytoPathfinder had licensed the exclusive worldwide rights to a US patent — No. 6,905,878 and entitled "DNA Array for High-Throughput Solid-Phase Transfection and Method for Producing the Same" — from the Scripps Research Institute in late 2005.

According to the patent's abstract, it covers "a DNA array for high-throughput and highly efficient solid-based transfection, which comprises a plurality of dried spots on a solid support. … Said dried spot comprises a plasmid DNA to be introduced into cells; a transfection reagent; and a cell-adhesion protein and to a high throughput and highly efficient solid-based transfection method to introduce plasmid DNA into cells, using the same."

The patent lists Miyake, previously a Scripps researcher, as a co-inventor.

Miyake also said that CytoPathfinder has acquired the rights to a number of relevant patents from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, a Japansese research institute where initial development of the transfection microarray was conducted.

Further, Miyake said that CytoPathfinder's reverse-transfection technology incorporates a unique solid-phase non-viral transfection accelerator based on an undisclosed extra-cellular matrix protein.

"We do believe that our technologies are quite different from MIT's," Miyake said.

Officials from Dharmacon were not available for comment by press time.

— Doug Macron ([email protected])

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