Mirna Therapeutics and UCSF to explore therapeutic potential of microRNAs

16 February 2009

Mirna Therapeutics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Asuragen, Inc. and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)have entered into a collaboration agreement to evaluate the capacity of specific microRNAs to reduce or eliminate tumours in mouse models of cancer.

The collaboration will include studies of cancer-related microRNAs that were discovered at both Mirna and UCSF as well as small RNAs that will be identified in research using mouse and cell models from UCSF.

“miRNAs are exciting new therapeutic targets for cancer therapy. Our collaboration with Mirna will allow us to identify potentially novel tumor-associated miRNAs using genetically-defined cancer model systems,” said Andrei Goga, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor at UCSF and Member of the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We are very excited about the potential of miRNAs as therapeutic agents and look forward to verifying that the small RNAs can be used to treat patients with cancer. Collaborating with a leading institution like UCSF will ensure rigorous testing of therapeutic miRNAs using the most advanced cancer animal models,” said Matt Winkler, CEO/CSO of Mirna.

MicroRNAs are RNA molecules of 17-24 nucleotides that are encoded in the genomes of plants and animals. The small RNAs contribute to the regulation of global gene expression by affecting the translation of specific mRNAs, including those that encode oncogene and tumourssuppressors.

MicroRNA expression studies at Asuragen and at other leading institutions have revealed microRNAs that are frequently expressed at reduced levels in cancer. Many of these miRNAs induce distinct cellular phenotypes and affect cancer-related processes, including proliferation, cell-cycle progression, cell viability and apoptosis.

hanging the levels of these cancer-related miRNAs in cells alters the expression of multiple bona fide oncogenes and tumor suppressors, suggesting that mis-regulation of these miRNAs in cells contributes to carcinogenesis. Mirna and UCSF are currently using animal models to explore the therapeutic potential of many of these cancer-associated miRNAs.


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