Ribonomics has been awarded $150,000 by the N.C. Biotechnology Center in recognition of the commercial potential and scientific merit of its functional clustering technology.

The Durham-based company will use the biotech center’s funding to complete commercial development of the Ribonomics Analysis System (RAS), a technology that allows the physical isolation and characterization of functionally related genes in vitro and in vivo.

Ribonomics system harnesses the cell’s own organizational scheme for protein expression to reveal functional relationships between genes, show new regulatory links among pathways, and assign cellular function to uncharacterized genes.

“The pharmaceutical industry is still learning how to deal with the vast amounts of gene expression data acquired through microarray studies–,” said Bentley Cheatham, director of biology for Ribonomics. “Combining our RAS technologies with existing genomics technologies will enable a highly focused exploitation of gene expression leading to identification of cellular pathway components and novel therapeutic targets.”

This funding will enable Ribonomics, founded in 1999 based on research at Duke University, to expand the technology for defining regulatory processes important to a given disease or biological process, the company says.

“We work with pharma customers to better understand the effects of their drug candidates,” said Ribonomics President Christopher Kelly. “Customers want to start where they want to start. This development enables us to use our technologies with any gene of interest.”

Ribonomics was awarded a $420,000 grant by the U.S. Dept. of Defense last August through the Breast Cancer Research Program of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. The company received $3.1 million in seed funding in April 2001 from a single corporate partner, the Japanese public company Medical & Biological Lab Co. Ltd.

Ribonomics: www.ribonomics.com

N.C. Biotech Center: www.ncbiotech.org