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Open Biosystems to Sell shRNA Library For RNAi Consortium, Plans Updates, Deals

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Since releasing in 2003 its first RNAi product, a library of 7,000 DNA constructs that generate dsRNA targeting about half the Drosophila genome, Open Biosystems has become a prominent supplier of RNAi collections, kits, and reagents.

Now, the company is preparing to make another addition to its offerings with a short hairpin RNA library for the entire human genome developed by the Broad Institute's RNAi Consortium, RNAi News has learned.

"We will be distributing the Broad Institute's [human] shRNA library [and] we anticipate launching [the first part of the collection] in June," Gwen Fewell, RNAi product manager at Open Biosystems, told RNAi News this week. She noted that Open Biosystems will also be distributing the RNAi Consortium's mouse shRNA library, but didn't have a timetable for when it would be available.

In April 2004, RNAi News first reported that the Broad Institute was establishing a public/private consortium of RNAi researchers focused on developing genome-scale sets of virally expressed shRNAs targeting the mouse and human genomes (see RNAi News, 4/9/2004).

About a year later, the institute formally unveiled the consortium as an $18 million, three-year effort comprising Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Broad Institute, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Also making up the consortium are Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Sigma-Aldrich, and the Taiwan government-sponsored Academia Sinica-National Science Council.

RNAi News also reported in April last year that Open Biosystems was in talks with the RNAi Consortium about distributing its shRNA collections, but that these were very preliminary. However, the discussions advanced, Fewell said, and a deal for both the human and mouse genome collections was ultimately signed last month.

The human shRNA library is the first collection to come out of the RNAi Consortium, and will initially include about 35,000 lentiviral-based constructs covering roughly 7,000 genes, Fewell said. "The goal of the collection is 150,000 constructs covering about 30,000 genes," she added.

Although Fewell could not provide an estimated release date for the mouse shRNA collection, which also features lentiviral vectors, she said that the goal is to have both the mouse and human libraries fully completed by March 2007.

Fewell said that Open Biosystems expects to price the RNAi Consortium's collections at around $100,000 each for academic subscribers, on par with its other human and mouse sets, but stressed that this pricing structure has not be finalized. Commercial prices are not available because they are negotiable, she noted.

Aside from signing on as the RNAi Consortium's shRNA libraries distributor, Open Biosystems is also in the process of expanding its existing collections, according to Fewell.

In March last year, the company announced that it had begun selling the human and mouse shRNA libraries developed with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Greg Hannon and Harvard University's Steve Elledge. Currently, the human library consists of 36,700 constructs, cloned into retroviral expression vectors, covering 21,800 genes.

According to Fewell, the complete Hannon/Elledge human genome collection — 62,000 constructs covering 30,000 genes — is slated to be ready this June.

The complete mouse genome set will follow shortly thereafter, she said. "We will have 30,000 constructs by the end of June … [which is] half [the mouse genome]. We're scheduled to have 62,000 constructs covering around 30,000 [genes] for the mouse … probably by the end of the summer at the latest."

"We've had a lot of interest in the Hannon/Elledge collection, both academically and commercially," she noted, adding that Open Biosystems has five academic cancer center subscribers to the genome-wide collections, as well as "several" commercial customers for both whole-genome collections and individual constructs.

Interest in lentiviral libraries has also been strong, she said, which has prompted Open Biosystems to prepare a lentiviral version of the Hannon/Elledge library that is set to be released by the end of the summer.

While the market for RNAi research products is becoming more and more focused on mammalian applications, Open Biosystems also recognizes that there will always be a place for other model organisms. As such, the company is continuing to expand its Drosophila RNAi library, Fewell said.

"We got an [NIH] grant last year to complete the [Drosophila] genome [with T7-adapted double-stranded DNA constructs], and use them to generate dsRNA constructs" for the full genome, she said. "That will be completed in 2006."

As for new products, Fewell noted that the company is preparing to launch what it terms an Assay-Ready shRNA product. The library comes arrayed in a glycerol format, she explained. "We've made assay-ready, high-quality DNA for several gene families, and have them arrayed out in 96-well dishes, including controls in every dish," she said. "You get 400 nanograms [per well] of shRNA to use in cell-based RNAi assays."

Initially, Open Biosystems is targeting human gene families with the Assay-Ready shRNAs, Fewell said. "Our first … shRNA set will be the kinase … [and] it will launch in June."

Open Biosystems also continues to be on the lookout for new technologies that it can distribute, Fewell said. "We're always looking for collaborations with researchers as new technologies come out. We're constantly looking for bringing them in-house and creating new products."

One of these is a set of retroviral vectors encoding almost 24,000 different shRNAs targeting about 8,000 different human genes constructed by Rene Bernards and colleagues at the Netherlands Cancer Institute.

Fewell said that Open Biosystems is interested in distributing Bernards' collection, but added that any kind of deal is still "on the horizon. We're just going to wait and see for now," she said.

— DM

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