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Companies working to optimize microarray technology for splice variant analysis


Palo Alto, CA and Paris, France – Instrument manufacturer Agilent Technologies and drug discovery company ExonHit Therapeutics have formed a research collaboration to combine Agilent’s microarray platform and ExonHit’s alternative RNA splicing technologies and expertise. The collaboration will explore the development of a microarray-based solution that will enable scientists to properly monitor the expression of splice variants.

Splice variants are variable sequences of RNA produced from the same gene in DNA, resulting in the creation of different proteins potentially affecting cellular regulation. Scientists developing therapeutics are increasingly interested in this emerging field as the expression of splice variants can provide novel targets, may indicate disease states, and can be altered by exposure to drugs and toxins.

Agilent and ExonHit say they are working together to optimize microarray design, reagent protocols and data analysis methods for splice variant studies. As a specialist in alternative RNA splicing, ExonHit realized that the proper characterization of splice variant expression required dedicated profiling platforms. The company says it has received notice of the allowance of its patent, which broadly claims nucleic acid arrays that enable the detection of alternative RNA splicing events via either intron or exon and splice junction-specific probes.

Initial results from an experimental splicing array of G-protein coupled receptors, designed by ExonHit and produced by Agilent pursuant to the collaboration, were presented at Splicing 2004, an annual symposium on alternative RNA splicing, by Richard Einstein, vice president of R&D North America at ExonHit. The array detected multiple isoforms of several genes, and showed good reproducibility and specificity. The companies are expected to work with early test sites to generate additional experimental results.

“Our mutual goal is to better enable alternative RNA splicing analysis using microarray technologies,” said Fran DiNuzzo, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Integrated Biology Solutions business unit. “ExonHit Therapeutics has developed an impressive process for the identification of splicing patterns that point to specific targets for therapeutic intervention. By collaborating, we can define methods that deliver more informative splice-variant expression analysis for drug research and development.”