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Anticipating MDx Debut in ‘09, ExonHit Creates New Business Units, Hires Managers

Laying the framework for the launch of its first molecular diagnostic next year, French life-sciences firm ExonHit Therapeutics last week said it has split into two business units, one for molecular diagnostics and genomic services and one for therapeutic programs.
Separately last week, ExonHit said it plans to launch SpliceArrays for rat and mouse before the end of March.
Under the new company structure, John Jaskowiak, current executive vice president of business development, will be head of the Molecular Diagnostics and Genomic Services Unit, while Matt Pando, ExonHit’s vice president of research and development, will head the Therapeutics Unit.
The company also said it has hired two new managers to help with future commercialization efforts. Anders Ingvarsson has joined ExonHit as vice president of marketing of molecular diagnostics, and James Douglas was hired as vice president of corporate strategy and projects, the company said.
Ingvarsson previously served as an executive vice president at Sangtec Molecular Diagnostics, while Douglas was senior vice president of sales and marketing at Epigenomics.
Paris-based ExonHit reorganized and made the new hires as it plans to launch an array-based diagnostic for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. The company said the product could become available as a service through the firm’s labs by early 2009.
“Our current primary focus today is continuing the development and launch of a blood-based diagnostic for Alzheimer's disease,” Jaskowiak told BioArray News in an e-mail this week. “Our intent is to register this diagnostic test both in Europe and the USA and to provide a service directly in our [Good Laboratory Practices]-compliant laboratories to the pharmaceutical industry as early as 2009.”
ExonHit in March identified a panel of genes to diagnose Alzheimer’s from blood samples and discussed the findings soon after at the International Conference on Alzheimer and Parkinson Diseases in Salzburg, Austria (see BAN 3/27/2007).


Eight months later, the firm said it had improved the test to also detect the presence of Alzheimer's disease in patients presenting with cognitive disorders as determined by two commonly used neuro-psychiatric criteria. 

“Had the signature been less complex we would have considered more cost-effective and well-accepted platforms, for example RT-PCR.”

At that time, the company also said it believes microarrays are the best platform for commercializing the test. ExonHit has strong relationships with Agilent Technologies and Affymetrix, as both firms manufacture its line of splice variant arrays (see BAN 11/13/2007).
“In the case of our Alzheimer's effort, the signature is better suited for a microarray, as this platform is well suited to support larger genomic signatures,” Jaskowiak said this week. “Had the signature been less complex, for example a few splicing isoforms, we would have considered more cost-effective and well-accepted platforms, for example RT-PCR. 
According to Jaskowiak, the Alzheimer’s test for could be used by clinicians trying to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s in a patient or to “screen out patients suffering from other dementias such as frontal lobe dementias, Lewy body dementias, or vascular dementias.”
Jaskowiak said that the ability to screen out patients with other dementias will be validated in a larger study by the second or third quarter after ExonHit has compared its Alzheimer’s panel to the clinical diagnostic criteria for these dementias.
Rat and Mouse Splice Chips
Sperately last week, ExonHit said that it soon plans to launch SpliceArrays for rat and mouse. Jaskowiak said that the firm is “still shooting” to launch the products some time before the end of March, but declined to provide additional details on the new arrays.
ExonHit first launched its family of SpliceArrays, which allow researchers to look at alternative splicing information in the human genome, as a service in March 2005. Later that year, catalog chips manufactured by Agilent and Affymetrix were introduced (see BAN 2/9/2005, BAN 10/18/2005).


ExonHit now offers an Apoptosis Gene Family SpliceArray and a Druggable Gene Families SpliceArray on the Affy platform, while GPCR, Ion Channel, Nuclear Receptor and Co-regulator, Apoptosis, Cytokine, and Protein Kinase SpliceArrays are available on Agilent arrays.

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