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Evotec Forms Partnership With Qiagen to Promote Companies Technologies for RNAi

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Qiagen and Evotec Technologies announced this week that they have entered into a partnership to co-promote the use of Qiagen’s TOM-amidites chemistry-based RNAi products with Evotec’s Opera high-throughput confocal microscopy platform.

Evotec was co-founded by Karsten Henco, who was also one of the co-founders of Qiagen. As such, “we have a long-standing, good relationship [with Evotec] … and it seemed a natural combination to exploit our ability to design and make siRNAs, and help them develop downstream assays that can be performed on the Opera system,” according to Eric Lader, associate director of business development at Qiagen.

Under the deal, the two companies will promote the benefits of using each other’s technologies for RNAi experiments, Evotec CSO Rolf Gunther told RNAi News. The deal does not call for any formal combination of the technologies, he noted.

“There’s sort of a catalytic effect for the user [by combining Qiagen’s RNAi products with Opera],” Gunther said. “We’re working together to show this strength.”

“Assays to measure gene knockdown at the RNA level or at the protein level are nice and they serve a function in validating the activity of an siRNA, but most people want to use [RNAi] to answer biological questions,” Lader added. “For the academic researcher studying his favorite gene, he can develop an individual assay to study that gene. But for high-throughput drug discovery or target validation, high-throughput, high-content screens are the wave of the future.”

According to Gunther, Evotec has already developed a “demonstration system,” which will be unveiled at the European Union for RNA Interference Technology conference on Sept. 23 in London, to show to potential users the effects of combining the technologies.

“It’s showing the application,” he said. For example, “if you take siRNA from Qiagen and use it with the cell line a customer uses, this demonstration shows how the images, which you take with Opera, would look. You can see … the effect on receptor distribution over the cell or internalization, which may be blocked by the RNAi or not.”

Additionally, Evotec and Qiagen are developing a series of application notes to describe various experiments that can be more easily conducted using the companies’ respective technologies together.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people at different pharmas and they’re at different stages with their ability to do a high-throughput assay with RNAi, either for target validation and discovery or on one of these high-content screens,” Lader said. “There are pharmas that are surprisingly large that are just tinkering with gene silencing right now.”

But before these companies spend the money on equipment and staff to ramp-up their gene-silencing capabilities, “[they] have to see how they can use the technology,” Lader said. That’s where the application notes come in.

The first of these notes, entitled “Ultra High-Throughput Gene Silencing for Rapid, Economical Functional Genomics Studies,” is set to be presented at the EURIT conference and is detailed on Qiagen’s website here. It highlights an experiment knocking down a G protein-coupled receptor using Qiagen’s siRNA duplexes and transfection reagents in combination with Evotec’s Opera system and high-throughput cell-seeding and liquid-handling stations.

“The receptor used in [the] study was a fusion protein of the endothelin A receptor and enhanced green fluorescent protein that was constitutively expressed in CHO cells,” according to the website.

“Endothelin A receptor is a GPCR that recognizes endothelin-1 as its natural ligand,” the website states. “Endothelin-1 activation of the endothelin A receptor is involved in a variety of biological effects … [and] binding of endothelin-1 to the endothelin A receptor induces rapid endocytosis of the receptor.

“High-throughput RNAi techniques can be combined with monitoring of endocytosis using a fluorescent marker for the identification of genes involved in the internalization process,” and the study demonstrates that “an assay, such as fluorescent monitoring of endocytosis with the Opera imaging reader, can be combined with cost-effective, high-throughput RNAi screening for highly efficient functional genomics research,” the website concludes.

— DM

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