Originally developed in the lab of Phillip Sharp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, miRNA sponges are transcripts expressed from strong promoters that contain multiple tandem binding sites to an miRNA of interest.
Under the deal, InteRNA’s lentiviral-based miRNA over-expression library will be used in “multi-parametric, high-throughput functional screening assays” to identify the role of individual miRNAs in various cancer pathways. The company hopes to discover novel miRNAs as therapeutic targets.
The patent application, No. 20050261218 and titled "Oligomeric Compounds and Compositions for Use in Modulation [of] Small Non-Coding RNAs," claims methods of inhibiting the liver-specific miRNA miR-122, which has been shown to play a role in hepatitis C virus replication.
While Rockefeller University's Sohail Tavazoie and Ohio State University's Carlo Croce secured the most sizable awards, researchers from the University of Michigan and Harvard University also garnered grants exceeding $500,000.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researcher Bino John and colleagues reported recently that a so-called unusually small RNA — around 17 nucleotides long — can down-regulate a microRNA target, suggesting a gene-regulation role for the RNA.