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New Open Biosystems Program to Make shRNA Libraries More Accessible for Academics


Open Biosystems has launched a program, called the Open Access RNAi Core program, designed to make its genome-wide shRNA libraries more affordable for the company's academic customer base.

"This is a new program we've established to take into account … our customers' feedback," Troy Moore, CTO at Open Biosystems, told RNAi News this week. "In academia, we kept hearing … that [researchers] really want to be able to look at whole genomes," but were concerned that their human or mouse genome-wide shRNA library would be outdated when new enhancements were released.

"On top of that, [the libraries are] going to continue to grow, [and researchers were saying], 'We're not sure we can go back to the well and ask for more money to buy more constructs,'" he added.

In the Open Access RNAi program, Open Biosystems will place an shRNA library into a facility, such as a core lab, and allow it to be used by all investigators at the facility, Moore said. Additionally, the company will "continually restock [the library] with extensions as they become available," he said.

"On a genome scale … [shRNA libraries are] a very big investment for research groups. Part of our mission is to enable those groups, and we think this [program] will do it."

Under the program, participating academic facilities - which account for about 75 percent of Open Biosystems' customer accounts - will be able to "provide institute investigators access to the glycerol stocks to the shRNA libraries," according to a letter the company is sending to its customers and provided to RNAi News. "This means an individual researcher can request to have any individual clone and/or subset, including specific custom subsets."

Additionally, Open Biosystems will provide expansions of the shRNA libraries to Open Access participants before they are released to the market "at approximately 50 percent of the list price," the letter notes. Moore added that under the program participants can also upgrade their shRNA platforms as they become available "should we come out with an inducible format or an adenovirus format [for instance]. Depending on how they've set up their plan, [upgrades] could be free or at a reduced cost," he said.

The Open Access plan also includes customer support, such as telephone and e-mail technician assistance for participating institutions, as well as two site visits by Open Biosystems staff to assist the core facility with troubleshooting, quality control, and technology development, the letter states.

The shRNA libraries "on a genome scale, you can imagine, [are] a very big investment for research groups," Moore said, noting that a human or mouse whole-genome library comprising 30,000 transcripts, covered by at least two shRNAs, costs $150,000. "Part of our mission is to enable those groups, and we think this [program] will do it."

He noted that Open Biosystems has not signed on any customers for the Open Access program yet, but said that "we have quite a few ongoing discussions with different groups. It's still in the negotiation phase, though some of them are late stage."

He said that part of the negotiation process includes tailoring some of the program's features to a customer's needs. "There are different sizes of universities, and [some are] more aggressive in the research and [some] want it as a platform to encourage people" to undertake RNAi research, he said. "Depending on the universities' needs, we allow them to configure it somewhat."

Though the Open Access program is currently limited to Open Biosystems' mouse and human shRNA and shRNAmir libraries, Moore said that "we certainly do envision it growing to encompass a lot of the content that we provide." Additionally, he said that the program would be opened to the company's commercial customers, but that it "would need to be configured differently."

- Doug Macron ([email protected])

Open Biosystems' shRNA libraries were developed by the RNAi Consortium, a collaboration established by The Broad Institute comprising six research institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The Broad Institute, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Other members include five life science organizations, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Sigma-Aldrich, and the Taiwan government-sponsored academic Academia Sinica-National Science Council.

Launched in early 2005, the consortium will work over a three-year period to share expertise about ways to use RNAi technology to speed biomedical research, develop efficient protocols for preparing DNA and virus stocks of the RNAi reagents, and create methods for performing high-throughput screening with the entire library.

The establishment of the consortium was first reported by RNAi News in April 2004 (see RNAi News, 4/9/2004).

Under an agreement, Open Biosystems handles distribution of the RNAi Consortium's shRNA libraries, which currently consist of approximately 48,000 human shRNA constructs targeting 9,700 human genes, and 16,572 mouse shRNA constructs targeting 3,300 mouse genes.

The libraries are expected to eventually contain constructs, cloned into lentiviral vectors, targeting 15,000 human genes and 15,000 mouse genes.

Open Biosystems' shRNAmir libraries were developed in collaboration with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Greg Hannon and Harvard's Steve Elledge. The shRNAmir constructs are designed to mimic a natural microRNA primary transcript, enabling specific processing by the endogenous RNAi pathway and producing more effective knockdown, according to the company.

The shRNAmir libraries cover the entire human and mouse genomes, and are cloned into both retroviral and lentiviral vectors.

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