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With Luck of the Irish, HiberGen Aims to Associate SNPs with Disease

NEW YORK, Oct 5 – Irish genomics company HiberGen plans to conduct local population studies in an effort to gain a better understanding of the role SNPs play in diseases such as arthritis, diabetic nephropathy, and pre-eclampsia, HiberGen’s chief scientific officer said Thursday.

HiberGen also announced that an Irish biotech company bought one-third of the company.

“The reason for using the Irish population is because it’s relatively homogenous, which can help to eliminate background noise,” Pat Vaughan told GenomeWeb.

Vaughan said HiberGen of Dublin had obtained anonymous samples of DNA from disease patients through collaborative agreements with Irish clinicians.

The company then conducted gene expression profiling studies by creating models that mimicked the diseases of interest as well as by comparing diseased and healthy tissues. The studies resulted in many leads that will now be studied.

To do so, HiberGen will use its patented, enzyme-based SNaPIT technology to search for SNPs in patients’ genomes that could be associated with various diseases.

“SNaPIT can screen genes for SNPs and it can be used as a rapid genotyping machine so we don’t have to sequence entire genomes,” said Vaughan, adding that several hundred to over a 1,000 patients might be screened to determine the associations between SNPs and disease.

Vaughan said the company, which plans to have 10 employees within 12 months, would earn revenues by selling the SNaPIT technology and by partnering with pharmaceutical companies.

On Thursday, Trinity Biotech (Nasdaq: TRIBY) also of Dublin announced that it had acquired 33.3 percent of HiberGen’s share capital for $1.3 million.

Under the terms of the deal, Trinity has exclusive rights to HiberGen’s GMA amplification technology for use in human pathogen detection. The GMA system is an alternative to PCR amplification.

In addition, Trinity has the right to increase its ownership of HiberGen to 49 percent for an additional $950,000. Trinity also has the option to increase its stake to 66 percent in the next 10 to 18 months. The price will depend on the company’s success in reaching certain unspecified milestones.

“A major attraction of HiberGen is the established cohorts of patents with well-defined disease inclusion criteria, which they have access to,” Ronan O’Caoimh, CEO of Trinity Biotech, said. “This coupled with HiberGen’s expertise and SNaPIT technology, will allow them to quickly identify potential disease associated genes, in the areas of focus.”


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