Tech Edge: RNA Interference and Therapeutic Applications

Editor’s note: Regular columnist Mindy Goldstein, PhD, welcomes this “Tech Edge” contribution from colleague Narendra Vaish, PhD, of Nastech Pharmaceutical Company.

From the column editor: Small interfering RNA (siRNA), sometimes known as short interfering RNA or silencing RNA, is a new technology that has recently burst onto the scene and is being heavily pursued for use in pharmaceutics. This technology is a class of 20–25 nucleotide-long, double-stranded RNA molecules that play a variety of roles in biology. RNA interference (RNAi) via siRNAs has generated a great deal of interest in both basic and applied biology given its ability to knockdown—i.e., suppress gene expression—essentially any gene of interest.

An increasing number of large-scale RNAi screens have been designed to identify important genes in various biological pathways. Since disease processes also depend on the activity of multiple genes, it is expected that in some situations, turning off the activity of a gene with an siRNA could produce a therapeutic benefit. In the near future, this technology will probably move into the cosmetic world.

In this column, Narendra Vaish, PhD, from Nastech Pharmaceutical Company, presents an overview of interference RNA and therapeutic applications for this technology. He is a senior scientist at the company and leads an RNAi-applied research group. Vaish has extensive experience in drug discovery, drug development, RNAi and molecular evolution. Before joining Nastech, he worked at Sirna Therapeutics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck, where he played a leading role in developing the company’s chemically modified siRNAs. Vaish has authored and co-authored numerous research articles and reviews in the fields of RNAi, molecular evolution and peptide chemistry. He is the co-inventor on more than 80 patent applications. His research interests include dermatology, virology, oncology and inflammation.

—Mindy Goldstein, PhD

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