Services will initially focus on toxicology, neuroscience, and cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases.

Sigma-Aldrich reports that it will create genetically engineered rodent research models using its CompoZr™ zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) gene-editing technology. Initial selections of genetically engineered animal models and a service platform for development of custom rodent models are scheduled to be available late 2009, according to the company.

Development will be carried out at the Sigma Advanced Genetic Engineering (SAGE) Labs in St. Louis. The scientists will initially create knockout rat models with a focus on toxicology, neuroscience, as well as cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases.

Sigma-Aldrich says that mice can be generated in four months, or in about one-third the time it takes to make a knockout model using conventional ES-cell-based approaches. “The knockout rat is a long-awaited milestone in the scientific community and we are pleased that Sigma innovation has played such a key role in its development,” says Dave Smoller, Ph.D., president, Sigma Research Biotechnology.

Sigma-Aldrich joined forces with Sangamo Biosciences in June 2007 to commercialize ZFN technology for research purposes. In January 2009, Sangamo reported having achieved a key production capacity milestone a year ahead of schedule, triggering a $1.0 million fee from Sigma-Aldrich.

The use of ZFN technology to create rats with targeted gene deletion was published in the July 24 issue of Science. The rats, according to the paper titled “Knockout Rats via Embryo Microinjection of Zinc-Finger Nucleases,” had permanent heritable gene mutations.

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