Asuragen gained exclusive access to Yale University’s inventions developed by Frank Slack, Ph.D., for the regulation of oncogenes by microRNA's.
"By taking this license, Asuragen continues to strengthen its position as the leader in the application of miRNAs for diagnostics and therapeutics", states Matt Winkler, CEO/CSO of Asuragen. "We believe that recent advances in the application of siRNAs and the acquisition of Sirna Therapeutics by Merck & Co., confirms that RNA chemistries are overcoming previous clinical hurdles and sets the stage for potential miRNA therapeutic applications."
Dr. Slack discovered that among the genes regulated by the microRNA let-7 in the nematode C. elegans, there are several genes related to cancer, including the homolog of the human oncogene ras. A collaboration between scientists in the Slack laboratory and at Asuragen revealed that human let-7 regulates the expression of ras and that mis-regulation of let-7 in human lung cells likely contributes to the development of lung cancer via altered expression of ras.
"Our hope is that we can use let-7 as a potential diagnostic tool to diagnose lung cancers in patients," Dr. Slack explains. "And secondly, potentially use let-7 as a way to knock out activated ras in those lung cancers."
In addition to this license agreement, Asuragen will also fund Dr. Slack’s miRNA research.