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Pfizer Buys Stake in Genizon, Plans to Co-Develop Dxs in Three Disease Areas

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Genizon BioSciences has granted Pfizer diagnostic rights to its discovery programs in Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and endometriosis, and Pfizer will buy an undisclosed stake in Genizon, the companies said this week.
 
The collaboration will enable Pfizer to use Genizon’s technology to discover diagnostic markers linked to these disorders from ongoing genome-wide association studies using DNA samples from the Quebec Founder Population.
 
The QFP comprises around 6 million people in Quebec who can trace their ancestry to the original 2,600 settlers who came to the region between 1610 and 1750. Genizon has culled over 40,000 DNA samples from the QFP for its gene- and marker-discovery programs in 25 diseases.
 
“The QFP is an ideal population for gene mapping because of its optimal combination of genetic homogeneity, the number of generations since founding, the number of founders, and its rapid early growth,” Genizon VP of business development Bill Cheliak told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week. “Due to its genetic homogeneity it is easier to find disease genes in the QFP than in more general European or North American populations.”
 
By collecting DNA samples from this population Genizon has developed GeneMaps – charts of genes that show a person’s disease predisposition and define gene-gene interactions and biochemical pathways – in diseases such as Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, schizophrenia, ADHD, and endometriosis. 
 
Genes in the QFP population identified for disease predisposition have shown to overlap with the general population for certain diseases, particularly Crohn’s disease. For this digestive disorder, researchers identified a genetic overlap between the QFP and the general Caucasian population in Europe.
 
“Similar genome-wide association studies in general populations have, to date, been relatively unsuccessful,” Genizon CEO John Hooper told Pharmacogenomics Reporter. “The QFP provides greater statistical power with fewer patients, and allows precise matching of patients and controls by reference to the origins of these subjects' grandparents – which we believe to be a crucial factor in this science.”
 
In its collaboration with Pfizer, Genizon will use the QFP to discover genetic markers associated with these diseases, and it will use a second population sample set to test the predictive ability of these markers to diagnose the disorder.
 
“The objectives of the collaboration are to identify markers that will allow earlier diagnosis of these diseases, all of which tend to be diagnosed significantly and sometimes years after onset,” Hooper said.
 
The end goal for the Pfizer/Genizon collaboration is to develop diagnostics for Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and endometriosis. Data have already been generated for ADHD and endometriosis. Recruitment is underway for Alzheimer’s disease and is slated for completion by the third quarter. Data for endometriosis will likely be available in early 2008.
 
According to Genizon, Pfizer will have rights to its IP that covers diagnostic markers associated with disease presence or susceptibility. In turn, Genizon retains the rights to license any disease-associated genetic markers identified in its GeneMaps to third parties to develop drugs or drug targets.
 
“Genizon retains the rights to the IP leading to therapeutic uses derived from new drug targets and personalized medicines,” Hooper said.
 

“The objectives of the collaboration are to identify markers that will allow earlier diagnosis of these diseases, all of which tend to be diagnosed significantly and sometimes years after onset.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will pay Genizon upfront license fees and funding for research on disease-related genetic variations. Pfizer will also purchase an equity stake in Genizon subject to certain closing conditions. Details were not disclosed.
 
It is not immediately clear if Pfizer is developing new targeted therapeutics in the three disease areas. The drug giant currently markets Aricept for Alzheimer’s disease and Depo-SubQ Provera 104 for the management of pain associated with endometriosis.
 
A Pfizer spokeswoman told Pharmacogenomics Reporter that the collaboration with Genizon “complements [our] work internally and other collaborations we have underway to evaluate new approaches that may help us understand underlying causes of disease. This knowledge could lead to new therapies with heightened specificity and improved safety.”
 
As part of a new business restructuring plan, Pfizer recently announced that the company aims to triple its Phase III portfolio from 2006 to 2009, and introduce as many as four new products a year starting in 2011. The company specifically noted that it had a portfolio of new drug targets in areas of critical need in neuroscience, including Alzheimer’s and ADHD.
 
In a recent interview with Pharmacogenomics Reporter, Hakan Sakul, senior director of molecular profiling at Pfizer Global Research & Development, discussed the company’s current areas of focus and future plans in the arena of pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine [see PGx Reporter 12-13-06].

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