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An intrepid reporter for miRNA research
October 2010
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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ST. LOUIS—Sigma Life Science, the research business unit of Sigma-Aldrich focused on innovative biological products and services, reports that it has teamed up with Menlo Park, Calif.-based SwitchGear Genomics on a joint project to develop and distribute a novel microRNA (miRNA) target reporter system.

By combining SwitchGear Genomics' expertise with Sigma's versatile lentiviral technology, the companies expect these "ready-to-use reporter vectors" to simplify miRNA target validation, enabling researchers to investigate gene regulation in a variety of biological pathways. Moreover, researchers reportedly will be relieved of the need for time-consuming and laborious reporter cloning. Use of Sigma's patented lentiviral technology is expected to allow the SwitchGear GoClone miRNA target sets to be used in a broad range of cell types, including primary cells and stem cells.

The effort emerges in large part from Sigma's effort about two years ago to pursue a strategic focus for life sciences to help scientists worldwide to better understand biology, says Helge Bastian, Sigma's vice president of global marketing, business development and strategy for the research biotech business unit.

"That is very big in our house, to develop products and technology to read the cells and understand pathways and molecular mechanisms, and do much more than just workflow technologies and techniques," he adds.

"Also, researchers want better understanding of primary cell lines, which is where everyone wants to work because that helps them understand best what's happening to cells in vivo," continues Supriya Shivakumar, Sigma's global commercial marketing manager for functional genomics.

The time is right to pursue a joint project like this, in part because one of the big pushes right now in the pharma and biotech markets is a focus on functional validations, says Nikos Hontzeas, Sigma's product manager for functional genomics.

"This is a very exciting joint effort," says Dr. Nathan Trinklein, CEO and co- founder of SwitchGear. "We believe that combining unique technologies from SwitchGear Genomics with Sigma's industry-leading lentiviral technology and production capabilities will enable researchers to study miRNA function and gene regulation on an unprecedented scale."

As Bastian explains, the technology the two companies are developing can be looked at as a way to get data almost straight from the cellular system researchers are using.
 
"It's an immediate readout from the cell, which is an elegant and straightforward way to understand the results of your experiment," he says.

Futhermore, as Shivakumar adds, the technology isn't just for validation of targets that researchers want to pursue, but can also be a screening tool "that can identify new ones that you didn't necessarily expect to play a role."

The collaboration fits well into SwitchGear 's mission, as its founders see themselves and their colleagues as leaders in the fields of computational regulatory element prediction, experimental validation, functional characterization and data analysis, and this "puts us in a unique position to fulfill these unmet needs by providing the research community with high-throughput tools to assay regulatory element function across the genome," Shivakumar says.

As SwitchGear's leaders note on their website, new tools and services offered by SwitchGear Genomics are intended to enable researches to gather novel data, greatly enrich existing genomic data sets and focus on experiments rather than resource development—or, as Sigma's representatives add, an overwhelming amount of time wasted on workflows.
 
 
Code: E101009

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