BACKGROUND: Short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) have become the research tool of choice for gene suppression, with human clinical trials ongoing. The emphasis so far in siRNA therapeutics has been the design of one siRNA with complete complementarity to the intended target. However, there is a need for multi-targeting interfering RNA in diseases in which multiple gene products are of importance. We have investigated the possibility of using a single short synthetic duplex RNA to suppress the expression of VEGF-A and ICAM-1; genes implicated in the progression of ocular neovascular diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. RESULTS: Duplex RNA were designed to have incomplete complementarity with the 3'UTR sequences of both target genes. One such duplex, CODEMIR-1, was found to suppress VEGF and ICAM-1 by 90 and 60%, respectively in ARPE-19 cells at a transfected concentration of 40 ng/mL. Use of a cyan fusion reporter with target sites constructed in its 3'UTR demonstrated that the repression of VEGF and ICAM-1 by CODEMIR-1 was indeed due to interaction with the target sequence. An exhaustive analysis of sequence variants of CODEMIR-1 demonstrated a clear positive correlation between activity against VEGF (but not ICAM-1) and the length of the contiguous complementary region (from the 5' end of the guide strand). Various strategies, including the use of inosine bases at the sites of divergence of the target sequences were investigated. CONCLUSION: Our work demonstrates the possibility of designing multitargeting dsRNA to suppress more than one disease-altering gene. This warrants further investigation as a possible therapeutic approach.