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Cenix, Merck, Nastech, IMB, Genome Institute of Singapore

Cenix Forms Target Discovery, Validation Partnership with Merck
Cenix BioScience said this week that it has signed a framework research agreement under which it will provide Germany’s Merck with services to boost its drug target discovery and validation efforts in oncology.
Under the arrangement, Cenix said it will apply its expertise combining high-throughput, genome-scale screening applications of RNAi with high content phenotypic analyses in cultured human cells to discover and validate new therapeutic targets, using assays co-designed with Merck scientists.
According to Cenix, the deal includes an option to expand into certain other human disease areas.
Additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nastech Receives $1.6M Grant for RNAi Influenza Program
Nastech Pharmaceutical said this week that it has received a $1.9 million research project grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to support the company’s development of an RNAi-based influenza therapy.
According to Nastech, the grant brings the total amount of National Institutes of Health funding it has received for the flu program to $2.3 million. The company added that a grant for additional funding is pending.
Nastech acquired its RNAi-for-flu program from Galenea earlier this year (see RNAi News, 2/23/2006).

IMB Prediction Method Suggests Greater Number of microRNAs Than Previously Thought
Current estimates of the number of microRNA genes and targets in the human genome may be off by an order of magnitude or more, according to researchers at IBM and the Genome Institute of Singapore.
As reported by Bioinform, RNAi News’ sister publication, the researchers suggest that the number of miRNAs could number in the tens of thousands and that some of these miRNAs may have as many as a few thousand targets. The findings were published in last week’s Cell.
These findings, the result of a computational miRNA target prediction method called rna22 developed at IBM Research, represent an enormous jump beyond previously published estimates of miRNA activity and are certain to stir debate in the quickly evolving field of RNA interference, BioInform reported.
In the paper, the IBM and GIS researchers use rna22 to process four genomes: C. elegans, D. melanogaster, M. musculus, and H. sapiens. The average number of 3’ UTR sites targeted by known microRNAs ranged from 73 in C. elegans to 1,008 in human. The number of microRNA precursors, meanwhile, ranged from 359 for C. elegans to 25,000 in human at a folding-energy cutoff of -25 Kcal/mol. At a less stringent threshold of -18 Kcal/mol, that estimate rises to 55,000 microRNA precursors in the human genome.

The team’s results suggest that microRNA binding sites may not be limited to 3’ UTRs as previously thought, but may also occur in 5’ UTRs as well as in coding sequences, according to BioInform

The Scan

Boosters Chasing Variants

The New York Times reports that an FDA advisory panel is to weigh updated booster vaccines for COVID-19.

Not Yet

The World Health Organization says monkeypox is not yet a global emergency, the Washington Post reports.

More Proposed for Federal Research

Science reports that US House of Representatives panels are seeking to increase federal research funding.

PLOS Papers on Breast Cancer Metastasis, Left-Sided Cardiac Defects, SARS-CoV-2 Monitoring

In PLOS this week: link between breast cancer metastasis and CLIC4, sequencing analysis of left-sided cardiac defects, and more.