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Taiwanese Genomics Startup to Research Population Genomics Among Asians

NEW YORK, March 14 - A new Taiwanese genomics company will study the patterns of SNPs among east Asians in the hopes of identifying genes related to diseases common in that part of the world and perhaps even get new insights into drug responses in these populations.


In its first project, Vita Genomics hopes to compile a database of disease-relevant SNPs prevalent among Asian populations. It plans to make this database available for researchers looking to improve drug efficacy and minimize toxicity, the company said.


The company, which was launched in March 2001 and opened its labs last week in Taipei, said it also plans to perform contract-based high-throughput DNA sequencing.

Although the relationship between race, genes, environment, and disease is by no means clear, certain disorders are certainly more common among east Asians, and genetic variability also has an influence on adverse drug reactions and drug success.


Stomach and liver cancers, for example, are more common among Asians than among people living in the United States. Breast cancer rates, by contrast, are substantially lower among US residents of Asian decent than among whites or blacks.


Vita Genomics, which is headed by Ellson Chen, a former principal scientist at Celera Genomics plans to focus on genes related to diseases common in Taiwan, such as hepatitis, liver cancer, asthma, oral cancer, and lung cancer.


Vita Genomics is based in Taipei and has offices in Taiwan's Tainin Science-based Industrial Park and in Burlingame, Calif. Lap-Chee Tsui of the Research Institute at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto is the company's chief scientific consultant, and Clontech's Ken Fong is Vita Genomics' chief business advisor.


Just after the company opened its doors, it signed a multi-year subscription deal with Celera to use the company's Discovery System database and tools. Celera also holds a five percent stake in the company.


This news was originally reported this week in Nature.

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