Asuragen moves ahead with microRNA offering
service that can search over 13,000 human candidate miRNAs.
The firm is one of a growing number of companies trying to expand their service offering to stay ahead in the microRNA (miRNA) game. The company claims the new service enables "comprehensive analysis of miRNA from published miRNA sequences and a vastly expanded set of unpublished candidate miRNAs". The platform used in Asuragen's service, dubbed DiscovArray, includes a new microarray from miRNA specialist Ambion that is custom-manufactured by Affymetrix and designed specifically for miRNA expression analysis. Currently available only through Asuragen's services, the array contains features representing validated Sanger miRBase content in combination with over 12,000 exploratory human miRNAs, the company said. "The robustness of the Affymetrix platform and Asuragen's highly sensitive labeling technology combined with miRInform, a new web-enabled data delivery system from Asuragen, offer unprecedented data quality and value to anyone studying miRNAs," said Asuragen. In addition, the company claims the new DiscovArray service provides an expanded view of potential miRNAs on the gold-standard Affymetrix platform. "Data analysis is delivered so that results can be understood within minutes, and is priced to encourage researchers to build more power into their studies within a given budget," said Scott Hunicke-Smith, vice president and general manager of Asuragen Services. miRNAs, a new class of highly informative diagnostic markers, are a budding area of the $800m (€594m) genomics sector. There are approximately 500 known human miRNAs, which are a class of small non-coding RNAs that are only 19-30 nucleotides long that are believed to regulate approximately 30 per cent of all human genes. Distinct miRNA expression patterns have recently been associated with various types of cancer as well as playing a role in regulating cell development, metabolism and viral infections. As a result, there has been an increasing interest in miRNA from pharmaceutical companies in the past couple of years. However, as they represent a unique class of small RNA molecules, miRNAs require special tools for accurate and sensitive analysis, and firms such as Asuragen have spotted the opportunity and developed new outsourced services aimed at exploring this up-and-coming area of research, giving researchers access to their technology without having to invest time and money into setting up facilities for microarray analysis in their own labs. But Asuragen is certainly not the only player in the field, and its rivals in the miRNA services race include US-based Febit, Invitrogen and Cogenics, and Danish firm Exiqon.