Rosetta, NIH to ID microRNA drug targets

In a collaboration that aims to find potential drug targets for treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, Rosetta Genomics—which has headquarters both in Israel and Jersey City, N.J.—will work with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to identify microRNAs implicated in HIV viral replication and their function.

Jeffrey Bouley
REHOVOT, Israel—In a collaboration that aims to find potential drug targets for treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, Rosetta Genomics—which has headquarters both in Israel and Jersey City, N.J.—will work with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to identify microRNAs implicated in HIV viral replication and their function.

HIV researcher Dr. Zvi Bentwich, chief scientist of Rosetta Genomics, notes that his company is the best collaborator for this effort, as it has access to the majority of known human and viral microRNAs, a strong intellectual property position that has enabled Rosetta to develop highly sensitive, proprietary technologies for detecting and quantifying microRNAs. These technologies are based on publicly known human and viral microRNAs in addition to Rosetta Genomics' proprietary microRNAs, which are yet to be published.

"Having the opportunity to work with the NIH on this important collaboration is a reflection on our leading capabilities and know-how in this field," he says.

A particular focus of Rosetta and NIH will be to better understand the link between the aberrant expression of microRNAs and the viral replication of HIV and deepen the understanding of the role microRNAs play in HIV pathogenesis, Bentwich notes. In a study published last year in Nature Medicine, researchers showed that microRNAs are involved in suppressing HIV replication and keeping it latent, he adds.

The collaboration is also important because it further expands the range of Rosetta's growing arsenal of microRNA-based diagnostic and therapeutic tools, which currently are focused primarily on cancer and women's health indications.

And, in general, the work with NIH is another public feather in Rosetta's cap in the microRNA arena, which had some notable successes in the recently completed second quarter of fiscal year 2008 with regard to diagnostic applications, notes Amir Avniel, president and CEO of Rosetta. Rosetta has now seen the first approval of a test based on its microRNA technology, which differentiates squamous from non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer with a sensitivity of 96 percent and a specificity of 90 percent. DDN

Jeffrey Bouley

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