Academic researchers have published the first results of a "whole genome" approach to gene function identification in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Although the approach seeks to determine the function of every gene in the genome by knocking out the genes, biotech companies using the model organism say they already have moved past cataloging the results of knockout experiments to focus on specific classes of genes that are likely drug targets.

In their report in Nature last week, scientists at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, U.K.) and colleagues published the use of RNA-mediated interference (RNAi) to knock out 90 percent of the genes on chromosome I of C. elegans. This was accomplished by feeding the worms bacteria expressing double-stranded RNA corresponding to the various genes. The ingestion of RNA transiently interferes with expression of the