[ASC-media] CSIRO Media Release - Gene Silencing

Bill.Stephens at csiro.au Bill.Stephens at csiro.au
Thu Feb 27 11:14:58 EST 2003

27 February 2003
Ref. 03/40
Molecular tools for identifying the function of thousands of genes quickly and accurately will promote major advances in biotechnology and agriculture according to CSIRO researchers.
Released by CSIRO Plant Industry, the tools - called gene-silencing vectors - allow high-throughput and highly efficient gene silencing.   
"Scientists can now accurately and rapidly identify the function of single genes or specific groups of genes from tens of thousands of genes in an organism," says Dr Jim Peacock, CSIRO Plant Industry Chief.
The vectors were developed to use with CSIRO's gene silencing technology, and are available free-of-charge to not-for-profit organisations for research use.  
Gene silencing technology - also called RNA interference (RNAi) - is now used internationally to study whole genomes by  'switching off' selected genes.
 "As well as the speed of analysis, these vectors provide nearly 100 per cent efficiency in 'switching off' any gene under investigation.
"This means the effect of a gene in an organism can be determined confidently, and once its function is known we can decide how to use this information.
"In the case of plants, we could breed agronomically useful genes - like those for disease resistance - into crops and pastures." 
RNA interference was conceived and developed at CSIRO Plant Industry in 1994, and has potential application in medical, veterinary and agricultural areas.
It uses double-stranded RNA as a trigger to degrade messenger RNA (mRNA), the molecules that link DNA's genetic instructions and the production of proteins. 
In 1995 CSIRO Plant Industry researchers were the first to demonstrate gene silencing in an organism by intentionally using double-stranded RNA.
"This technology has generated tremendous interest in the research community with many requests already to use the vectors," says Dr Peacock.
CSIRO filed a patent application to the gene silencing invention in 1998, and to the high-throughput methods more recently (published as WO 02/59294).
Other organisations filed similar patent applications around the same time, including Syngenta Limited (UK), Carnegie Institute (US) and Benitec Australia Ltd/Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI).   
CSIRO has filed oppositions to the Syngenta and Benitec/QDPI applications in Australia and recently filed considerable evidence with the Australian Patent Office in support of its position that it is the rightful owner of the Benitec/QDPI
patent application.
The vectors are described and are available through the CSIRO website at:http://www.pi.csiro.au/tech_licensing_biol/GeneSilencingVectors.htm
More information
Dr Rob Defeyter, CSIRO Plant Industry
+61 2 6246 5528
Robert.Defeyter at csiro.au
Media assistance
Jane Kahler, CSIRO Plant Industry
+61 2 6246 5077                 
0419 494 137
                                                                                    Jane.Kahler at csiro.au

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