RNAi has matured into a potentially revolutionary technique which silences gene expression in cells. Scientists can study the molecular effects of modulating expression at the level of individual genes. This degree of precision can now be accomplished without the time-consuming efforts previously dedicated to the construction of single gene knockouts or dominant negative cell lines.
Under an agreement between the two companies, Dharmacon will supply Genentech with a range of small interfering RNA's (siRNA) reagents including Dharmacon's Human Druggable Genome library, which focuses on genes considered potential targets for therapeutics. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Dharmacon's siGENOME siRNA collection offers SMARTpool reagents and individual SMARTselection designed siRNA reagents targeting unique human, mouse, and rat genes in the NCBI RefSeq database. The siGENOME is a gene silencing collection supporting all research phases from initial drug development and validation to late-stage therapeutic development.
This latest collaboration joins a handful of companies involved in developing nucleic acid-based therapeutics involving RNA interference. Four leading companies in siRNA research for therapeutic applications are Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Sirna Therapeutics, Acuity Pharmaceuticals and Atugen. Atugen was a spin-off of Sirna (1998) but is now an independent company competing with Sirna in this sector.
Benitec of Australia has joined this list of leading providers with its DNA directed RNAi (ddRNAi) therapeutics. Apart from this, Benitec also offers target validation services. Devgen NV, utilizing its proprietary RNAi technology, develops knockdown C. elegans for target validation. Deltagen Inc., based on mouse gene knockout and standardized phenotypic analysis, has developed DeltaBase, a searchable database for in vivo derived mammalian gene targets and function.
A market report recently published by Research and Markets notes that the RNAi sector is difficult to define at present, as the major use of siRNA reagents is in research but partially overlaps that of drug discovery and therapeutic development.
The report estimates that the research market is around $300 million currently and will increase to $400 million in 2005 and $850 million by 2010. The value of the drug discovery market based on siRNA can be assessed at $500 million currently with increase to $650 million in the year 2005 and further doubling to $1 billion in the year 2010. Even if a few products get into the market by the year 2010, this market will expand to $3.5 billion based on revenues from sales of siRNA-based drugs.