Bio-Rad last week announced that it has signed a deal to sell experimentally validated versions of Integrated DNA Technologies' 27-mer RNAi duplexes • termed Dicer-substrate siRNAs • as part of a bid to expand its presence in the RNAi research field.
The arrangement does not mark Bio-Rad’s first step into the RNAi arena since the company already sells lipid transfection reagents for siRNAs. However, it does set up the company to compete with the bigger RNAi players such as Dharmacon, Ambion, and Qiagen, which each sell their own line of validated siRNAs, and carves out for the company a unique niche in the field with an siRNA technology not employed by these other firms.
"Certainly, we've been interested in entering this sector," Brad Crutchfield, vice president and group manager of life science for Bio-Rad, told RNAi News' sister publication BioCommerce Week this week. The partnership is "consistent with us supporting the entire customer workflow of gene-expression analysis."
According to Crutchfield, "it's no longer cool that you can just silence or at least inhibit a gene." Customers want "a kit kind of approach to being able to silence specific genes," he said. "We really felt [the deal with IDT] gave us an opportunity to provide that. The real thing we … think differentiates us is really offering the customer the total solution."
"It's no longer cool that you can just silence or at least inhibit a gene." Customers want "a kit kind of approach to being able to silence specific genes."
Under the terms of the deal, Bio-Rad will validate the gene-silencing performance of IDT's Dicer-substrate siRNAs against "several hundred identified targets that are of common interest to researchers," Roman Terrill, general counsel at IDT, told RNAi News this week.
Bio-Rad will exclusively market worldwide the validated duplexes, which will be manufactured by IDT, he said. Terrill added that IDT will also continue to sell both custom-made Dicer-substrates and its Trifecta kits, which are pools of three Dicer-substrate siRNAs that come with a guarantee that at least one of those oligos will knock down a target more than 70 percent.
The companies are also co-developing a series of control kits for use with the Trifecta kits and the validated Dicer-substrate duplexes.
"This is the first effort we have made to experimentally validate Dicer-substrates and then sell the resulting" molecules, Terrill noted. "What Bio-Rad will be selling is, in many cases, a single duplex that is known by experimental validation, not in silico design, to knock down the targeted gene."
He said that Bio-Rad is expected to introduce the first validated Dicer-substrate duplexes and related kits in the fall.
According to Crutchfield, by striking a deal for the Dicer-substrate technology, Bio-Rad has acquired "a freedom to operate [that] has been limited by the patents out of MIT."
Indeed, of particular benefit to Bio-Rad is the fact that the Dicer-substrate siRNAs' unique design keep them clear of an intellectual property portfolio exclusively licensed to only four companies: Ambion, Qiagen, Dharmacon, and Proligo, which was acquired by Sigma-Aldrich early last year (see RNAi News, 2/18/2005).
Unlike traditional 21 nucleotide-long siRNAs, Dicer-substrate duplexes are roughly 27 nucleotides long. In a paper published last year in Nature Biotechnology, researchers from City of Hope and IDT reported that the Dicer-substrate siRNAs could be up to 100 times more potent than 21-mer siRNAs without inducing an interferon response or activating protein kinase R in cells.
The MIT IP, meanwhile, describes "a Drosophila in vitro system which was used to demonstrate that dsRNA is processed to RNA segments 21 [to] 23 nucleotides in length," according to the abstract of the portfolio's primary US patent application.
"Furthermore, when these … fragments are purified and added back to Drosophila extracts, they mediate RNA interference in the absence of long dsRNA," the abstract states. "Thus, these … fragments are the sequence-specific mediators of RNA degradation." The IP also covers a "molecular signal" required to trigger the RNAi effect, and its use in mammalian cells.
Through the deal with IDT, Crutchfield said, "we have the freedom to operate with the intellectual property, and we have the source of these sequence-specific siRNA complexes."