NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – San Diego-based startup molecular diagnostics firm NexDx today said it has finalized a deal with the University of California, San Diego to develop and commercialize epigenetic biomarkers targeting rheumatoid arthritis.
The exclusive worldwide agreement grants NexDx rights to discoveries made in the laboratory of Gary Firestein, a professor of medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, that "will help fuel NexDx's discovery of novel DNA methylation biomarkers," which may be useful in determining whether a patient has RA, NexDx Chairman, CEO and, Co-founder Jonathan Lim said in a statement.
The company's first priority, he added, will be to develop and commercialize a diagnostic test for RA.
Firestein is also NexDx's scientific advisor and co-founder.
According to NexDx, current methods of differentiating RA from other autoimmune disorders such as osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and ankylosing spondylitis can have poor specificity and/or sensitivity. Because RA remains primarily a clinical diagnosis rather than a disease that can be diagnosed by molecular-based methods, "there is a clinical need for reliable, cost-effective tests to correctly diagnose, predict outcome, and monitor therapeutic responses of RA and other autoimmune diseases with arthritic symptoms to reduce morbidity and mortality," Lim said in a statement.
Research by Finestein suggests that the inflammation-producing cells that line the joints of RA patients are characterized by DNA methylation patterns, NexDx said. These patterns produce DNA signatures that could be used as diagnostic biomarkers for RA that can be identified in patient blood samples.
NexDx will conduct research on the DNA signatures in blood samples of patients with RA with the aim of developing a blood-based diagnostic test. The company also plans to investigate the aberrant DNA methylation signatures to determine the optimal therapy and to discover new drug targets for biopharmaceutical partners, NexDx said.
Financial and other terms of the licensing deal were not disclosed.
NexDx was founded in August and develops products and services focused on autoimmune diseases.