Trana Discovery and Southern Research Institute Announce the First RNA-RNA High Throughput Drug Screening Assay Platform for HIV Antivirals

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 General News
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CARY, N.C. and BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sept. 17 TranaDiscovery, a drug discovery company, today announced the development of a highthroughput screening (HTS) assay for the identification of new compounds forthe treatment of HIV. The HTS assay was developed in collaboration withSouthern Research Institute, a research organization that conducts basic andapplied preclinical drug research. This new assay gives pharmaceuticalcompanies the ability to rapidly and efficiently screen vast libraries ofcompounds in order to identify those that interrupt the lifecycle of HIVthrough a novel mechanism of action -- the inhibition of transfer RNA (tRNA).This technology has the potential to discover new classes of medicines for thetreatment of HIV that may overcome resistance mechanisms associated withcurrent therapies.

To date in the U.S., about 30 drugs -- as single agents or as combinationproducts -- for the treatment of HIV infections have been introduced by morethan ten different companies. But collectively, these agents represent onlyfive different classes working at just four different sites of action in theHIV replicative cycle. And despite the enhanced potency of the more recentlyintroduced products, resistance continues to be a major challenge for managingpatients with HIV.

There remains an unexploited target for antiretroviral drugs -- thedisruption of human transfer RNA (tRNA) use by the virus during HIVreplication. But until recently, several barriers, including the stability ofthe RNA-RNA binding during experimentation, had prevented exploration of tRNAas a drug target. Working in collaboration with Southern Research, TranaDiscovery refined their technology to overcome those barriers in a HTS format,thus opening the way to discovery and development of HIV drugs that work bymeans of this novel mechanism of action.

At the state-of-the-art High Throughput Screening Center at SouthernResearch, the Trana Discovery RNA assay was adapted to the robotics platform.By using precision robotics, highly accurate low volume liquid handlingdevices, sensitive detectors and powerful data processing software, the HTSassay that was developed will allow researchers to quickly conduct millions oftests that identify active compounds. The data generated from a large screenlike this provides the starting point for drug design and development. Usingthis newly validated assay, the HTS Center at Southern Research can screen50,000 compounds per day.

"We consider the HIV HTS assay as a major breakthrough in the developmentof new techniques in the early-stage drug discovery and development process,"said David Harris, director of Drug Discovery Business Development at SouthernResearch. "The addition of the tRNA assay platform adds to our serviceofferings that lead to the improvement of people's lives around the world."

Trana Discovery and Southern Research are currently developing other HTSassays to identity compounds that interrupt the lifecycle of bacteria, such asE.coli and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

"The development of the HTS assay validates that our technology can beadapted to the automated platforms used for high throughput screening, andsignals a major step forward in its advancement," said Steve Peterson, CEO ofTrana Discovery. The patented technology has been under extensive developmentat North Carolina State University. "We are now ready for thecommercialization and licensing of this technology to discover new classes ofcompounds that will inhibit HIV via a unique mechanism of action," saidPeterson.

Trana Discovery is seeking diverse collections of compounds or compoundswith known bioactivity against HIV but unknown mechanism of action to identifycandidates for drug development. Organizations interested in licensing the HIVuHTS assay should contact Trana at or by calling866-390-3452 (toll

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