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RNAi Global Kickoff Meeting

Nov 15, 2005 | “What we’re trying to do is to accelerate serendipity,” said Peter Ghazal, director of the University of Edinburgh Medical School’s Scottish Center for Genomic Technology and Informatics, at the first gathering of the Genome-Wide RNAi Global Initiative, in Boston on October 17 and 18. “Dharmacon is breaking ground here. I’m very encouraged by the progress made at the meeting.”

Ghazal’s enthusiasm was echoed by Michael Boutros, group leader of the Boutros Lab at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ): “We are learning how to make use of a powerful new tool to understand cancer [and other diseases].” Boutros said the consortium is “at a very early stage” and only looking ahead at transferring basic research into therapeutics.

Gordon Mills, chairman of the department of molecular therapeutics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said the focus of this “academically led, industry-driven consortium” is to “pool resources and learn how to work as a group.” He noted intellectual property as a “rate-limiting step” that is being addressed at the outset — along with data mining and sharing, setting standards, marketing, and leveraging high-throughput technology. “The resolution of those challenges will apply across many of the things we want to do in biological and medical science.”

The goal, Mills said, of using “unbiased global screens” — proceeding without any preconceived ideas of what to expect as an outcome — is to move beyond the candidate gene approach toward combinatorial events and even second- and third-generation screens. “This is going to be what is necessary to put the systems in systems biology,” he said. – Steven Withrow

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