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British Columbia Partners Working to Implement HCV Genotype Test

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Scientists at Vancouver's BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS Research (BC-CfE) are collaborating with pharmaceutical firm Janssen to study and implement a sequencing-based testing program to screen hepatitis C patients to predict their response to treatment with simeprevir, Genome BC said today.

Funding of C$800,000 (US$740,000) for the project comes from Genome BC's User Partnership Program, as well as BC-CfE and Janssen. The partners have developed and will continue testing an HCV screening test that determines the baseline prevalence of the Q80K polymorphism. This genetic variant can be used to indicate whether or not a patient will have an optimal response to treatment with simeprivir in combination with two other drugs, interferon and ribavirin. A test to select patients who will respond best to this treatment regimen not only will improve care but save the Canadian healthcare system money, Genome BC said.

The US Food and Drug Administration has strongly already recommended the use of a Q80K test for patients with genotype 1a infection before treatment with the protease inhibitor simeprivir and the two other drugs. Genome BC said this project now aims to implement a similar test in Canada, where an estimated 300,000 people are infected with HCV.

The researchers, led by BC-CfE Laboratory Program Director Richard Harrigan, used population-based DNA sequencing to develop and validate the simeprivir screening test, which determines the baseline prevalence of the Q80K polymorphism. Harrigan, a professor on the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, now will lead additional efforts to analyze past HCV populations to determine the mutation over time.

"By applying a similar approach that has been very successful in managing HIV and AIDS, specifically tailoring treatments to match individuals, we have the best chance of eliminating … HCV," Harrigan said in a statement. "These newer therapies are completely changing the landscape of Hepatitis C treatment."

Genome BC President and CEO Alan Winter said a genotype-tailored testing program will help personalize patient's treatments and lead to fewer side effects.

"In addition, the genomic screening test will result in significant cost savings or cost avoidance to the public healthcare system — approximately C$36,000 for each 12-week course of treatment not given to patients who will not benefit from it," Winter said.

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