2 July 2001

University of Queenslandresearchers have discovered and developed a way to turn up or turn down the effects of a gene.

The discovery, a family of DNA pieces, has been patented and will soon be commercially available in kit-form to scientists throughout the world enabling them to control and manage the activity of the genes they are studying.

Known as the GeneDimmerTM, after its ability to either dim or amplify the effects of a gene, the discovery was made by Drs Joseph Rothnagel and Xue-Qing Wang from UQ's School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences.

Genedimmer Pty Limited was formed to commercialise Dr Rothnagel's and Dr Xue-Qing Wang's research findings with $480,000 venture capital investment by Uniseed Pty Limited, the new $20 million pre-seed and seed fund established late last year as a joint venture between UQ Holdings and UniQuestat UQ and Melbourne Enterprises International, the commercial arm of Melbourne University.

Uniseed makes venture capital investments at the very early pre-seed and seed stages in the outcomes of outstanding Australian research.

Funding from Uniseed can be used to do further research to achieve commercial milestones and for proof of principle, prototype development, new venture formation and development of a business model and plan.

Dr Rothnagel said GeneDimmerTM applications were many and varied-it could be used to: increase fibre-yield and optimise pest resistance in transgenic crops; increase production levels in industrial enzymes; increase pharmaceutical yields; for gene therapy dosage control and probes for detecting cancer and other diseases in clinical trials; and for research of gene and protein functions.

Innovation and Commercial Development Manager Beryl Morris from UQ's technology, commercialisation and consulting company, UniQuest Pty Limited, estimated GeneDimmerTM kits could capture significant market share by 2005. The other applications of GeneDimmerTM as diagnostics and in gene therapy are the "blue sky" in the venture, she said.

Dr Rothnagel said the manipulation of genes, to control their expression in animal or plant cells in a managed, predicted way, had been urgently needed by the world's biotechnology and clinical medicine industries for some time.

"GeneDimmerTM can either dim down the performance of gene expression by 85 percent or amplify it by up to 300 percent," he said.

Dr David Evans, CEO of Uniseed said: "Genedimmer is an excellent example of the type of research-based venture Uniseed wants to invest in."

"It is based on excellent research, has the potential to make a major contribution to science and at the same time has a large commercial market.

"It demonstrates that world-class basic research and commercialisation can have great synergies and we are all looking forward to a bright future for Genedimmer."

Dr Rothnagel has been appointed the Chief Scientific Officer of GeneDimmerTM Pty Ltd. A recent holder of the prestigious Wellcome Trust Fellowship, Dr Rothnagel has 15 years experience in molecular biological techniques. Before joining UQ, he spent seven years at Baylor College of Medicinein Houston and three years at NIH (Bethesda).

For more information, contact Dr Joseph Rothnagel (telephone 07 3365 4629 at work or email josephr@biosci.uq.edu.au), Beryl Morris (telephone 07 3365 1197 or email b.morris@mailbox.uq.edu.au) or Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2339 or email s.glaister@mailbox.uq.edu.au).

Information about Uniseed investments and eligibility for investment can be obtained through Dr David Evans or Ruth Drinkwater (telephone 07 3365 4037 or email r.drinkwater@uniseed.com)