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Qiagen, Fisher Ink Deals With Academic Centers to Build RNAi, Life Science Tools


Qiagen and Fisher Scientific have struck deals with research institutes to collaborate on the development of new tools for RNAi-based research, the companies said this week.

Under the first deal, Qiagen and France's Institut Curie will co-develop high-throughput RNAi screening tools as part of the institute's BioPhenics project, which applies cell biology and microscopic imaging to cancer research in order to improve target validation and drug discovery. The BioPhenics project, which is being led by Institut Curie's Jacques Camonis and Franck Perez, is initially focusing on breast and lung cancer.

"We will compare and exchange knockdown data which will allow Qiagen to further develop and advance our siRNA technologies."

According to Bettina Hadrich, sales development manager of siRNA and genomic services at Qiagen, the company "is responsible for advanced siRNA design and synthesis and gene set annotation," while Institut Curie will handle screening and data analysis.

"Qiagen will provide the BioPhenics project with a collection of siRNAs that target a number of different gene families and functional gene groups," as well as its new HiPerFect transfection reagent, she wrote RNAi News in an e-mail this week. Camonis and Perez "will provide Qiagen with "information and input that will enable Qiagen to set up an siRNA collection for one specific gene group."

In exchange, Institut Curie will give Qiagen certain analysis data from an undisclosed part of the BioPhenics project, Hadrich said. "We will compare and exchange knockdown data which will allow Qiagen to further develop and advance our siRNA technologies." Additionally, Institut Curie researchers will have access to new Qiagen technologies in order to provide feedback on the products before they are commercialized.

The arrangement does not include research funding from Qiagen, she noted.

Under the second deal, Fisher has formed a broad, five-year collaboration with the University of Michigan to develop new tools for genomic and proteomic research, including those that use RNAi.

"We're big believers in partnering with the … practitioners of the sciences so that we can have direct access to cutting-edge technologies and innovations."

"We're big believers in partnering with the … practitioners of the sciences so that we can have direct access to cutting-edge technologies and innovations," Leland Foster, CEO of Fisher, told RNAi News this week. "We have done that with regard to the collaboration with the University of Michigan."

Under the arrangement, Fisher will issue requests for research proposals to the faculty of the University of Michigan, "and then those proposals come back and they're jointly reviewed" with the university, Foster said. Proposals that are selected stand to receive financial funding from Fisher, as well as support in the form of resources and technical assistance.

David Sherman, director of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute's Center for Chemical Genomics, told RNAi News that "there's a lot of interest in RNAi here. We're very interested at LSI and the Center for Chemical Genomics to promote this area."

Sherman noted that the university will be "working with Fisher to advance new technologies that relate to high-throughput screening and protein expression, and if we get proposals … that take advantage of RNAi and are relevant to the mission of this program, we'll be interested in funding" them.

Although RNAi is not the only focus of the partnership, Foster pointed out that "our scientists at Dharmacon will be very much involved in helping us screen the proposals and making influential recommendations as to which ones would be actually funded."

Foster said that the university will retain ownership of technological developments and products that come out of Fisher-supported projects, but that the company will have "preferential rights to the commercialization of all of the interesting technology that we discover together."

The alliance, Foster noted, not only allows Fisher to tap the talent pool at the University of Michigan, but could also give the company new insight into how it might better meet its customers' needs.

"We [also] need to triangulate the market, if you will, and this [partnership] is another way of doing that," he added. Researchers at the university will help Fisher "determine what sorts of procedures, solutions, tests, et cetera would help to speed along the work of our clients with regard to supplying them with improvements in technology.

Foster noted that while RNAi is an important focus for the alliance with the University of Michigan, Fisher has not established strict guidelines for the kinds of projects it will sponsor. "We've just opened it up for anyone and everyone, of course within the range of life sciences, and we're anxious to see what we get in this broad casting of the net," he said. "It may be that in future years we would tend to narrow that a bit, depending on our initial experience."

Foster also said that Fisher intends to form similar partnerships with other academic institutions. "We are always looking for those kinds of opportunities," he said.

— Doug Macron ([email protected])

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