Ribonomics, a functional genomics start-up with a lot going on, heads to Japan to meet with potential partners next week in its quest for ways to combat obesity and diabetes, says Chief Executive Officer Christopher Kelly.

Kelly says company executives visited France last month to meet with 20 different pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The visit to Japan features a similar 20-company lineup in Tokyo over three days. Now that the Japanese eat a more Western diet, they suffer from more Western problems, such as obesity and diabetes, Kelly says.

Durham-based Ribonomics uses a spinout technology from Duke University to discover clusters of genes that co-regulate certain body processes. The company is particularly interested in clusters of genes that co-regulate sugar and insulin pathways. “The patent office recently gave us notice of patent allowance,” Kelly says, adding that it is allowing broad protection for the company’s core technology.

“We think we found the smoking gun,” he says. He explains that means the company thinks it pinpointed new ion channel pathways that are good targets for diabetes treatments. “The next step is to screen for a drug,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Ribonomics hopes to name a high profile board member in the near future. Kelly says the company also plans to announce a grant award soon.

Ribonomics: www.ribonomics.com