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Dharmacon Signs Library Deal

By Nancy Weil, IDG News Service

June 14, 2005 | Dharmacon is providing its genome-wide short-interfering RNA (siRNA) library to Millennium Pharmaceuticals. According to Dharmacon, this is the first commercial siRNA collection that targets genes across the entire human genome, encompassing some 22,000 genes.

Millennium will use the library in high-throughput functional genomic studies aimed at identifying and validating novel drug targets. (Millennium declined to comment about the deal with Dharmacon or its plans for using the library.)

“One of the things we’ve always wanted to do is to go about changing the way people do science and medicine,” says William Marshall, Dharmacon’s executive vice president of research and operations. The Millennium deal will help the Lafayette, Colorado-based Dharmacon toward that goal, he says, noting that his company is “really excited” to be providing a library that covers the entire human genome.

The library was developed using Dharmacon’s proprietary SMART selection and SMART pool technologies, which are employed to develop gene-silencing reagents. The library has been in the works since late last year.

The agreement between Millennium and Dharmacon, however, is not exclusive. “We really want to get [the library] into the hands of many researchers,” Marshall says, adding, “We plan on being very aggressive in identifying additional opportunities where people would want to work with the entire genome.”

Dharmacon’s new reverse transfection screening technology is part of that push. The product line simplifies the handling of molecules and covers 26 target sets, including the human genome and 7,300 druggable genes.

In other recent RNAi news, Sirna Therapeutics, based in Boulder, Colorado, has presented encouraging data from its phase I trial for Sirna-027, an siRNA treatment for age-related macular degeneration (see “Running Interference,” December 2004 Bio•IT World, page 22). One of Sirna’s clinical investigators, Edwin Quinlan of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, reported that Sirna-027 — the first chemically optimized siRNA to be tested on humans — appears so far to be safe and well tolerated with no systemic or local adverse reactions related to its use.

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