Two European in vitro diagnostics companies may be planning to share information on breast cancer-related biomarkers in an effort to shave time off the wait for their respective market debuts.
DiaGenic, a Norwegian in vitro diagnostics firm, announced this week that it has begun negotiating with French molecular diagnostics company BioMérieux for ways to share their breast cancer gene-expression signatures.
"[We have] started discussions with BioMérieux related to their respective discovery research efforts in the field of breast cancer," DiaGenic said in a statement this week. "Both [of our] companies believe that the mRNA library in the blood stream provides useful information in the early detection of the disease."
"DiaGenic and BioMérieux aim at assessing the clinical value of their respective mRNA signatures in order to design future collaborative efforts on a promising set profile of genes through their clinical networks," DiaGenic stated.
The news comes at a time when both firms have made strides towards bringing their own array-based IVDs to market. Specifically, BioMérieux last month extended its collaboration with ExonHit Therapeutics for an additional six years to develop microarray-based diagnostics for early cancer detection using that company's alternative splice variant arrays (see BAN 10/19/2005).
Perhaps more significantly, the French diagnostics firm in April expanded an agreement with Affymetrix to allow it to develop tests for breast cancer (see BAN 4/6/2005).
"BioMérieux has worked for a long time on the development of diagnostic products using microarray platforms [and] through its agreements with Affymetrix, BioMérieux has access to world-leading technology and expertise."
DiaGenic has also been moving forward in its plans for launching an array-based IVD, announcing a partnership with Applied Biosystems and IMGM Laboratories for testing its predictive biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease using ABI's 1700 Expression Array System and Human Genome Survey Microarray (see BAN 8/17/2005).
DiaGenic chairman Håkon Sæterøy said in this week's statement that the BioMérieux deal could hasten his firm's entry into the breast cancer diagnostics market.
"DiaGenic will be able to reduce development time through such a collaboration and thus, will be able to come to the market with the first products earlier than planned," Sæterøy said.
Dag Christiansen, DiaGenic's vice president of marketing, told BioArray News this week that despite BioMérieux's ties to Affymetrix, the breast cancer discussions "do not affect [DiaGenic's] relationship with Applied Biosystems."
"Applied [Biosystems] is supporting our Alzheimer's project. This is proceeding according to plan and we expect to have the first results early next year," Christiansen said.
Still, DiaGenic will be using the ABI platform when it embarks on a new breast cancer study in partnership with the Norwegian Radium Hospital next year. Christiansen said the new study is part of the Functional Genomics project funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
"One aim of this project is to identify the most suitable platform for early detection of breast cancer looking at gene-expression patterns in peripheral blood," Christiansen said. "We expect that the study will lead to the identification of more informative genes that will then be validated on the TaqMan low-density array platform."
DiaGenic had been using Agilent's platform in earlier studies at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, and Christiansen said "the samples [in the new study] are the same as used on the Agilent platform, mostly coming from women with a first suspected mammogram."
Regarding the talks with BioMérieux, Christiansen insisted that the firms are just "discussing the grounds for future collaborative efforts" and that it "is too early to say if this will materialize into a partnership between the two companies."
However, DiaGenic does see promise in the talks and Sæterøy said that the "discussions with BioMérieux represent an important confirmation for DiaGenic," and that BioMérieux shares his company's "view on both concept and technology."
"BioMérieux has worked for a long time on the development of diagnostic products using microarray platforms [and through its agreements with Affymetrix], BioMérieux has access to world-leading technology and expertise," Sæterøy said.
Christiansen added that the fact that both companies already do have activities in this field should facilitate a product development. "Our plan to have a product prototype ready during 2006 is still valid," Christiansen said.
However, the company has yet to announce a partnership with a platform provider for its breast cancer assay.
DiaGenic officials told BioArray News in March that the company is looking for a chip vendor to help it develop and eventually launch the product. The company said at the time that it can develop the test on schedule in 2006 with a budget of NOK10 million ($1.6 million), and that it was looking to partner with a platform provider (see BAN 3/23/2005).
Christelle Chabert, a spokesperson for BioMérieux, confirmed this week that the company has entered into discussions with DiaGenic. Last month, she said that the firm was still exploring options for array-based diagnostic tests and that "discovery results themselves will dictate [BioMérieux's] next priorities" (see BAN 10/19/2005).
-- Justin Petrone ([email protected])