Many companies exhibiting at the “European Laboratory Automation” (ELA) congress were hesitant to make major announcements or unveil new products at a new conference taking place right on the heels of “BIO2011”. Nonetheless, several new offerings caught GEN’s eye.
TALEN-ted Molecular Scissors
Cellectis bioresearch touted its new service for engineering customized genetic modifications. Earlier this year the company obtained exclusive rights to transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs®)—a dimeric protein fusion of a highly specific DNA binding recognition sequence with an endonuclease—which can be used to make precise double-stranded breaks.
Because of its straightforward cypher—the two amino acid repeat variable di-residue (RVD) of a 33–35 amino acid repeat domain recognizes a unique nucleotide—it’s expected that TALENs can be made to target a wide variety of sequences.
The double-stranded breaks created by TALENs have been used to disrupt genes by nonhomologous end joining as well as to insert transgenes or introduce precise gene modifications (in the presence of a template) by homologous recombination.
Lars Knoch, Ph.D., Cellectis bioresearch’s Central European sales manager, sees TALENs as the “next generation” of molecular scissors—a field that currently includes zinc finger-nucleases and meganucleases.
Toxic Animal Farm
In his 10 years in pharmaceutical research, Steven Trim realized how difficult it was to source crude animal venoms and toxins in the U.K. and Europe. So he founded Venomtech—which houses a host of snakes, insects, scorpions, spiders, and other arthropods—to do just that.
Venoms contain a variety of different carbohydrates, enzymes, peptides, and nucleotides that, singly or in concert, can have a profound effect on physiology—as analgesics, antimicrobials, or anticancer agents, for example. The crude venoms themselves, as natural products, are free from IP constraints.
Custom volumes of individual venoms are sold frozen in low protein-binding vials rather than lyophilized, which could potentially lead to some loss and expose personnel to potentially toxic dusts. Custom and off-the-shelf 96-well Venom Discovery Arrays (VDA)—“with 32 snakes in triplicate, 48 tarantulas in duplicate, or 96 arthropods in singlet,” for example—are also available for screening, Trim said.
Because they contain complex mixtures—with the components of some species overlapping those of others—a VDA is a “naturally compressed hit-to-tool screening plate” with built-in redundancy to help identify the hit, he explained. In addition, natural selection has modified many of the components, allowing for even more ways to probe the potential structure-activity relationship and determine selectivity.