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GeneThera Working with Italian Universities to Expand Dx for Livestock Illness to Rx


Biotech company GeneThera said last week that it will expand its efforts to commercialize a diagnostic platform for Johne's disease, an uncurable bacterial disease affecting the intestinal tract of livestock, by inking licensing agreements with a pair of Italian universities.

Specifically, GeneThera said that it is currently negotiating formal licensing agreements with the Universita di Roma "Tor Vegata" and Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, which have jointly developed a potential liposome-based therapeutic for the disease.

Tony Milici, founder and CEO of TheraGene, said in a statement that GeneThera intends to study the immunotherapeutic value of these liposomes in cattle that test positive for the disease through a diagnostic program the company is developing in collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

GeneThera plans to conduct the diagnostic testing program in Monterrey, Mexico, and has reached an agreement with Roche Diagnostics, which will provide specialized robotic equipment and real-time thermo-cyclers. Meantime, UNAM will support the program by providing access to livestock.

"The expansion of our diagnostic testing to include a potential therapeutic solution has obviously slowed our previously announced developmental timelines," Milici said. "However, we believe the potential benefits of introducing a comprehensive solution for both the identification and treatment of Johne's disease will more than justify these delays."

Milici added that GeneThera hopes to announce a final licensing agreement with the Italian universities in the next two months.

GeneThera, based in Arvada, Co., develops molecular assays and therapeutic vaccines for detecting and preventing food-contaminating pathogens, veterinary diseases, and diseases affecting human health.

The company also said in October that it was negotiating with the University of New Mexico for worldwide development and distribution rights to a vaccine designed to significantly inhibit the carriage and shedding of E. coli in cattle (see BTW, 10/8/2008).

According to a spokesperson for STC.UNM, the tech-transfer arm for the University of New Mexico, its negotiations with GeneThera for the E. coli vaccine are ongoing.

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