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 17th November 2009 Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific Welcomes Leading South African Research Organization to RNAi Global Initiative

LAFAYETTE, Colo. (Nov. 17, 2009) — Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., the world leader in serving science, today announced that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa has become the newest member of the RNAi Global initiative – an alliance of Thermo Fisher and leading international research centers.

The CSIR, based in Pretoria, has several research domains and regional offices throughout South Africa. It is the first organization in Africa to conduct whole-genome RNA-interference (RNAi) screening with small-interfering RNA (siRNA). Like all members of the RNAi Global Initiative, the CSIR is using Thermo Scientific Dharmacon siRNA collections in this work, specifically the siGENOME® SMARTpool® Mouse Whole Genome siRNA Library and the ON-TARGETplus® SMARTpool Human Whole Genome siRNA Library. These collections include reagents designed for each gene in the genome, enabling scientists to systematically block (silence) the effect of target genes and determine their role in disease or find potential therapeutic benefits of silencing them.

Dr. Musa Mhlanga, principal investigator of the laboratory for gene expression and biophysics and research leader of the CSIR’s Synthetic Biology program, will use the Dharmacon siRNA libraries to address broad areas of research, including the mapping of gene networks and the investigation of host-pathogen interactions for the major disease burdens in Africa, notably HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and, increasingly, cancer. The discovery and mapping of gene networks is an emerging research field, going beyond the identification of individual genes implicated in a disease to understanding the interplay of entire groups of genes that may be key nodes in these networks. This has major implications for many areas of biomedical research.

“Very little is known about gene networks, and this is a major challenge in biology. Just as mapping brain networks is important, so too is understanding the cartography of gene networks,” said Dr. Mhlanga. “We plan to use combinatorial approaches, knocking down multiple genes in a single cell. Our goal is to identify the groups of genes working together in different biological contexts, from growth and development to infectious and chronic diseases. We want to understand the key networks in these processes and how, for example, pathogens control and ‘engineer’ gene expression in their human hosts.”

As part of the RNAi Global Initiative, Dr. Mhlanga will have the opportunity to share his experiences with other leading researchers as well as leverage the group’s screening knowledge.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Mhlanga and his team at CSIR join the RNAi Global Initiative,” said Mike Deines, global director of marketing for genomics at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Dr. Mhlanga’s research focus on infectious disease and cancer is closely aligned with other RNAi Global Initiative members. We expect that interactions with other screening laboratories in the Initiative will help accelerate their medical research. The scientific exchange between members helps to shorten technology implementation time, improve screening outcomes and foster scientific collaboration.”

Since its inception in 2005, the RNAi Global Initiative has grown to more than 50 members in 15 different countries. The group holds two international scientific meetings each year. Members also interact through monthly teleconferences, online Web forums and meetings of sub-groups focused on topics of special interest. More information about the group is available at


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