Sigma Life Science’s Sigma Advanced Genetic Engineering (SAGE) Labs, and Ekam Imaging are teaming up to develop a suite of preclinical services that will combine SAGE’s rat models of neurological disorders and Ekam’s functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology. Sigma Life Sciences separately announced a deal with ADME/tox services firm Cyprotex, through which the latter will be able to offer its clients knockout transporter screening services utilizing Sigma’s CompoZr® zinc finger nuclease technology-based drug screening assays.

SAGE Labs’ rat models have been engineered to reflect patient-relevant mutations and exhibit relevant phenotypes. Through the collaboration with Ekam the models will be studied using Ekam’s fMRI technology, which can be used to provide detailed maps of a conscious animal’s brain activity, unlike other fMRI studies that require anesthetized, unconscious animals, the firms claim. “Probing the brain functions of a conscious animals…produces data that is much more representative of a potential therapy’s effect on human processes,” comments Mark Nedelman, president and CEO at Ekam.

Sigma and Ekam plan to launch services based on SAGE Labs’ neuroscience rat models in early 2013. Ekam is already using its technology to produce a detailed map of neural activity in SAGE Lab’s Pink1 gene knockout rat, which has been generated for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to model Parkinson’s disease, and exhibits delayed-onset motor deficits that mimic those of Parkinson’s disease in humans.

The license agreement between Cyprotex and Sigma represents the first nonexclusive deal signed by the latter for the CompoZr-based knockout transporter cell assay technology. “These novel assays are key products of our highly predictive suite of engineered cell lines and transgenic animal models,” remarks Paul Brooks, Ph.D., market segment manager for Sigma Life Sciences.

Cyprotex says the single and double functional knockout transporter services will allow it to offer clients specific, mechanistic assays to investigate the interaction of test compounds with MDR1 (P-gp), BCRP, and MRP2 transporters, without the use of chemical inhibitors that can interact with multiple transporters and produce an ambiguous representation of potential drug-drug interactions. 

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