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Qiagen, Dharmacon, EuroSciCon, and Antisense Therapeutics

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Qiagen Delivers Human Genome-Wide siRNA Library to Novartis

Qiagen said last week that it has delivered to Novartis the outstanding portion of a human genome-wide siRNA library that was being put together under an August 2003 partnership.

Qiagen had told RNAi News’ sister publication GenomeWeb News in August that it expected to have delivered the library by the end of October.

The library was designed using an siRNA selection algorithm developed by Novartis. Qiagen took a license to use that algorithm in December. (See RNAi News, 12/19/2003).


Dharmacon Publishes Peer-Reviewed Papers, Upgrades Free siRNA Selection Algorithm

Dharmacon researchers published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology a paper detailing a handful of the criteria the company uses in its proprietary SmartSelection siRNA selection algorithm.

The eight criteria discussed in the paper include low G/C content, low internal stability of the sense 3’ end (or antisense 5’ end), a lack of internal repeats, an A at positions 3 and 19, a U at position 10, the absence of G at position 13, and the absence of G or C at position 19. Dharmacon CSO Stephen Scaringe told BioInform, RNAi News’ sister publication, that these, plus 17 other criteria, are used in the company’s proprietary algorithm, and that each are weighted to account for the fact that some parameters are more influential than others.

The publication of the Nature Biotechnology paper coincides with Dharmacon’s upgrading of the free version of the siRNA design algorithm it offers through its website. The new version of the freeware now uses eight distinct siRNA design criteria, compared with the original four.

Separately this week, Nature published a paper demonstrating how a single siRNA pool — provided by Dharmacon — was used to identify the gene for vitamin K epoxide reductase (VKOR).

The paper was co-authored by scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Dharmacon researcher Anastasia Khvorova.

According to the Nature paper, localization of VKOR (which is the target of the anticoagulant warfarin) to 190 genes within human chromosome 16p12-q21 narrowed their search to 13 genes encoding candidate transmembrane proteins. The researchers said they used siRNA pools against individual genes to test their ability to inhibit VKOR activity and confirmed that MGC11276 mRNA encodes VKOR through its expression in insect cells and sensitivity to warfarin.


EuroSciCon Schedules RNAi Conference for March

EuroSciCon has scheduled an RNAi conference for March 5.

The conference, entitled “RNA Mediated Interference in Practice”, is to be held at The Old Refectory, Birkbeck College, in London. The event is being chaired by Buzz Baum from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and will include talks on RNAi in drug development and the use of predesigned and validated siRNAs in functional assays.

The full conference agenda is set for release on Feb 10.

Details about registering for the conference can be found at http://www.euroscicon.com/rnai.html.


Antisense Therapeutics Says Early Phase I Data on MS Drug Positive

Australian biotech firm Antisense Therpaeutics said this week that preliminary data from a phase I trial of its investigational antisense treatment for multiple sclerosis, ATL1102, indicate that the drug is safe and active. Final results are expected mid-year.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.