Helicos will help turn 'junk' into RNAi treasure

Deverlopers investigating new RNA interference therapies will soon have a new and powerful tool to aid their research work. Helicos BioScience reports that its scientists have mapped RNA without first translating it to DNA. And that new approach to sequencing should be commercially available next year.

The advance should help shed new light on so-called 'junk' DNA, which has recently yielded key biomarkers to drug researchers. "Often, the particular genetic markers associated with common diseases lie outside the coding regions of genes," Patrice Milos, the head of the study, tells Bloomberg. RNA interference, blocking the production of proteins, has developed into a big field in the biotech industry. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has helped pioneer the work alongside RXi Pharmaceuticals and others. Helicos plans to offer individual channel analysis for $300 and full RNA analysis for $15,000.

Harvard University's George Church, a champion of the human genome project, says that Helicos' advance will help accelerate a move away from using DNA microarrays to examine DNA to new, more efficient, sequencing technologies.

- read the story from Bloomberg