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New PGx Coalition Takes Aim at Trauma, ICU

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A large multi-institutional research project funded by the US National Institutes of Health aims to identify the genetic and other factors that determine the broad range of outcomes seen in trauma and critical care patients.

The research project is a long-term, 19-institution collaboration, known as the Inflammation and the Host Response to Injury program, that seeks to understand the causes and progression of systemic inflammation through clinical, genomic, proteomic, and bioinformatic analyses. Should the program successfully identify prognostic markers and clinically relevant proteins, drug makers may find themselves with a ready supply of surrogate endpoints to aid drug development, in addition to a new supply of drug targets to use in preventing the progression of systemic inflammation.

Still, even describing the problem is difficult, meaning that devising new diagnostic and prognostic tests — and eventually therapeutics — based on pharmacogenomics lies years in the future.

“There’s no question that [molecular medicine is] coming, and to be honest, the critical care people are becoming quite excited,” says Stephen Chanock, principal investigator of the National Cancer Institute’s Advanced Technology Center.

But getting there is the hard part. For example, comparing data between disparate research groups is difficult because of differences in technology platforms and variations in the definition of diseases, Chanock says.

The Inflammation and the Host Response to Injury network recently jumped that first hurdle when it developed a standardized system that could compare expression data. The group is now ready to begin enrolling patients for true molecular profiling studies.

Nearly halfway through its 10-year lifespan, the 4-year-old project will begin looking at large patient groups to find prognostic markers for critical care diseases, which it hopes will lead to diagnostic products, drug targets, and, ultimately, new pharmacogenomics-based therapeutics.

— Chris Womack

 

PATENT WATCH

US Patent 6,873,914. Methods and systems for analyzing complex biological systems. Inventors: Stephanie Winfield, Norman Glassbrook, Yasmin Ranasinghe, David Broadwell, Ioana Popa-Burke, Gordon James Nye, Christopher Beecher. Assignee: Icoria. Issued: March 29, 2005.

This invention provides systems for organizing complex and disparate data into coherent data sets that serve as models for biological systems, according to the abstract. These data sets can be used for various applications, such as determining gene function, identifying and validating drug and pesticide targets, profiling compounds, and producing health or wellness profiles, among others.

 

US Patent 6,872,533. STK15 (STK6) gene polymorphism and methods of determining cancer risk. Inventors: Amanda Toland, Allan Balmain. Assignee: The Regents of the University of California. Issued: March 29, 2005.

This patent covers a method for identifying cancer susceptibility by finding a SNP of the STK15 gene, including the STK15 Ile31 polymorphism, the abstract says. The invention provides isolated polynucleotides, polypeptides, specific binding pair members, and cells useful for identifying agents that affect tumor susceptibility.

 

Datapoint

64

Percentage drop in value of Transgenomic shares in the four months following the company’s reorganization announcement

 

ParAllele Bioscience and the University of Iowa will collaborate on a gene-discovery project for age-related macular degeneration. Research will be led by Gregory Hageman, a professor at Iowa.

 

Metabolon and Massachusetts General Hospital will work together on a two-year grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases, worth $365,000 in its first year, to co-discover biomarkers for diabetic nephropathy in type I diabetes.

 

In a bid to become a biomarker discovery company for diabetes, obesity, and liver injury, Icoria sold its agricultural genomics assets — including its Research Triangle Park, NC, facility — to Monsanto for $6.75 million. Icoria expects the move to trim its staff by 70 people, but 60 of those are expected to join Monsanto.

 

If you heard a collective sigh of relief from the PGx field in late March, it was because the FDA finally released its much anticipated (and much delayed) Pharmacogenomics Data Submission guidance, originally issued as a draft in November 2003.

 

George Washington University and Shenandoah University announced that they will be launching a joint undergraduate program in pharma-cogenomics starting this fall. Students who complete the program, which the universities say is the first of its kind in the US, will receive a BS in health sciences.

 

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