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Genetica Identifies Key Protein in RNAi Complex for Silencing Genes; Studies Published in Science.

Business/Technology Editors

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BW HealthWire)--Aug. 9, 2001

Scientists at Genetica Inc. and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory today announced the identification of a protein that plays a key role in a natural pathway for silencing genes. This study, published today in the journal Science, has the potential to advance the understanding of this pathway called RNA interference (RNAi) and enable new methods for determining the function of genes for drug discovery.

"RNAi has recently generated intense scientific interest as a pathway for interfering with the activity of genes. The RNAi process works through an enzyme complex that degrades messenger RNAs. While several genes that affect this process have recently been identified, this paper marks the first discovery of a protein component of the key enzyme complex," said Scott M. Hammond, Staff Scientist at Genetica Inc. and an author on the paper. "This discovery builds on previous research with our collaborators at Cold Spring Harbor who identified another important protein in the pathway that results in RNA silencing."

"The use of the RNAi pathway represents a highly promising approach to determining gene function, a critical step in understanding disease pathways and identifying targets for drug discovery, that brings us closer to being able to turn genes on and off in cells and organisms. We believe that this approach can be applied to mammalian cells to rapidly assess gene function. RNAi is one of several innovative cellular genetics approaches that the Company is advancing to accelerate drug discovery," said David Beach, Ph.D., President of Genetica Inc. Genetica has exclusive rights to this RNAi technology.

RNAi is a natural process that involves inactivating genes via double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). The process has been shown in a number of model systems including plants and fungi. dsRNA is first degraded into specific fragments by an enzyme called Dicer. Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory identified Dicer in studies published in the January 18, 2001 issue of Nature. The fragments bind to the RNAi-induced enzyme complex, which then seeks out and destroys the messenger RNA (mRNA) that is complementary to the RNA fragments from the dsRNA. By destroying the mRNA, the activity of a specific gene is silenced. The Science paper describes the discovery of the protein, Argonaute2, isolated from cultured Drosophila cells, which is the first component of RNAi-induced silencing complex identified.

Scientists participating in this research include Scott M. Hammond of Genetica and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Sabrina Boettcher and Ryuji Kobayashi of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Amy A. Caudy of The Watson School of Biological Sciences and Gregory J. Hannon of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and The Watson School of Biological Sciences.

Genetica is a privately held biotechnology company focused on cellular genetics, in particular the use of a novel set of genetic tools both to enhance the pace of drug discovery and to genetically manipulate cultured cells and whole organisms. Genetica's unique approach may be used to determine disease pathways in human cells, validate targets for small molecule drug discovery, and discover novel biopharmaceuticals and diagnostics.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 9, 2001
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