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Open Biosystems to Hit the Market With Low-Cost Whole-Genome Drosophila RNAi Resource

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Equipped with a two-year, $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, Open Biosystems is working on a low-cost, genome-wide Drosophila RNAi library that builds on its existing Drosophila RNAi collection.

“The goal is to be able to sell it to all the academic labs to perform their own screens,” Troy Moore, Open Biosystems’ CTO, told RNAi News.

The library will be made available in two formats. The first, which should be available by next June, will consist of PCR products flanked by T7 promoters that cover every gene in the Drosophila genome. Researchers can then perform their own in vitro transcription reactions to obtain double-stranded RNA for their screens.

The second product, planned for the end of next year, will be the actual double-stranded RNAs, delivered in a pre-aliquoted fashion.

Open Biosystems, based in Huntsville, Ala., developed its current Drosophila RNAi collection, which covers about half the fly genome, in conjunction with Pat O’Farrell at the University of California, San Francisco. The collection, which Open Biosystems sells for about $5,000, is a set of over 7,000 double-stranded DNA constructs. For each gene, 300-600 bases from an exon were amplified by gene-specific primers.

O’Farrell will also contribute to the upgraded product, Moore said, by “developing some new ways of utilizing the library,” which he would not specify. A portion of the NIMH funding will go to UCSF. Open Biosystems will be manufacturing and developing the new library and plans to sell it for roughly $5,000.

Other genome-wide Drosophila RNAi resources already exist, Moore said, but are either not directly available to researchers or only at a steep cost.

Norbert Perrimon’s Drosophila RNAi Screening Center at Harvard Medical School, funded through a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, offers fly researchers to come and perform genome-wide RNAi screens at its site. However, the center is limited by its capacity and doesn’t provide the actual library to others, according to Moore. Researchers must apply to obtain access to the center and must sign a data sharing agreement. The center states prominently on its website that “the purchase agreement of the PCR products from Eurogentec forbids DRSC to distribute either the PCR templates or dsRNAs to a third party.”

Researchers can purchase a complete set of Drososphila RNAi molecules from Ambion and Cenix Bioscience but this collection, which consists of more than 13,000 double-stranded RNA molecules and is marketed by Ambion, lists for $100,000.

“I know it’s not very widely used by the Drosophila community because of the pricing,” Moore said of the Ambion/Cenix library. “The initiative here is to put it in every Drosophila lab’s hands, to make it affordable for them to do RNAi screens on their own.” Open Biosystems, in general, focuses on the academic market, providing a number of resources to the yeast and Drosophila communities already, he added.

Although these laboratories are not funded as well as biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, “we can provide tools to them at a very reasonable cost because there are a lot of labs,” Moore said.

— JK

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