Scripps Florida Scientist Launches Company, cuRNA  
9/2/2008 7:28:04 AM

Claes Wahlestedt, who heads Scripps Florida’s efforts to develop drugs for diseases of the central nervous system, has launched new company with business consultant and longtime friend Joe Collard.

The company, which he has dubbed cuRNA, is developing a technology licensed from Scripps research that is based on the therapeutic potential of what are known as non-coding RNAs, or small molecules that once were thought of as little more than evolutionary leftovers.

However, as Wahlestedt and other scientists have discovered, these non-coding RNAs have been shown to play a vital role in gene expression, a process critical to a number of different disease states.

The technology licensed by Wahlestedt and Collards is broad-based and will take a lot of investment to develop commercially.

"Depending on the specific nature of the RNA involved, they can either elevate or suppress gene expression,” Wahlstedt said. “These things can be used in a number of important ways – to treat disease or as diagnostic markers or tools. All in all, they have some very significant therapeutic potential."

In the July issue of Nature Medicine, he showed for the first time how complicated the human genome is and how important the seemingly extraneous parts can be.

Wahlestedt has been with Scripps Florida since 2005. Prior to that, he was the founding director of the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

His company is the second spinoff for Scripps Florida. The first, Xcovery, was launched in 2006 by Scripps research scientist Chris Liang.