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Snippets: Mar 11, 2009

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California Startup Publishes Data on MDx Technology; Seeks Partners

Chronix Biomedical this week said that its scientists have published a study in the current issue of Clinical Chemistry, which it said provides proof-of-concept for the diagnostic and prognostic utility of its technology.

The San Jose, Calif.-based startup has developed data analysis tools that it said can characterize and categorize circulating nucleic acid markers. The firm said that the current study confirms its previous research showing that CNAs can identify the presence of certain diseases in blood samples months to years before clinical symptoms appear.

In the published study, Chronix's scientists applied ultra-high speed sequencing technology with the firm's data analysis tools to find CNA markers in multiple individuals. The researchers said that the resulting databases of CNAs associated with specific disease states can be used to identify people with undiagnosed disease, and could also potentially be used to track changes in disease status.

Though the firm's researchers used a Roche 454 Genome Sequencer in the study, Chronix's technology is platform-independent, a spokesperson told PGx Reporter sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News.

The most recent study follows company research published in January in Nucleic Acids Research, which showed that a blood test based on circulating DNA sequences could identify bovine spongiform encephalopathy and chronic wasting disease in live animals before symptoms were evident.

The firm also said that a third study was recently published in the journal Blood demonstrating the potential utility of CNAs in the management of cancer.

"Even in these experiments we found unexpected results – undiagnosed hepatitis in one patient and a secondary cancer in another – confirming the utility of CNAs in finding unsuspected disease," Chronix Biomedical CEO Howard Urnovitz said in a statement. "With these multiple proof-of-concept experiments now completed, we are embarking on the studies needed to further confirm and commercialize this powerful new approach with important applications in personalized medicine and human health."

Chronix is currently seeking industry partners to help further develop and commercialize the CNA technology for diagnostic and prognostic applications. It also said that it is discussing use of the technology with potential pharmaceutical partners, who could use it in drug development studies.


Rosetta Genomics Publishes Data on Lung Cancer Test

Rosetta Genomics and its research collaborators have published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology data from a study showing that the same biomarker used in the firm's miRNA-based test for squamous lung cancer provided 96 percent sensitivity.

The study, which was posted online this week on the journal's website, included 262 patients and was conducted by Rehovot, Israel-based Rosetta and researchers from Columbia University, NYU Cancer Institute, and Sheba Medical Center.

The firm said in a statement that it has shown that a single microRNA biomarker obtained from a routine pathological preparation of a biopsy identified squamous lung carcinomas with 96 percent sensitivity and 90 percent specificity.

Rosetta Genomics President and CEO Amir Avniel said that the study "strongly validates the microRNA technology that underlies our mirView squamous test."

The firm offers the test through its CLIA-certified lab in Philadelphia. It launched the test, which is designed to differentiate squamous from non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, in December.


NIGMS Offers $3M for PGx Knowledge Base

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences will grant up to $3 million this year to fund one pharmacogenomics knowledge resource that will "serve the needs of the entire research community."

Direct costs for the program are limited to $2 million per year for the Pharmacogenomics Knowledge Base (PharmGKB) over a period of up to five years. This program will enable new and renewal applications for an earlier program called the Pharmacogenetics and Pharmacogenomics Knowledge Base.

The goal is to support a program that will "present complete, comprehensive, and current knowledge in pharmacogenomics, backed by critical datasets, and the most compelling literature." It should "support and extend modern research approaches" that could help to achieve the goal of using pharmacogenomics to help guide doctors' treatment and therapy decisions.

"Obtaining basic research information and applying it in standardized manner both retrospectively and prospectively for future studies is challenging," NIGMS said in the funding announcement. "A neutral broker that presents a resource which harmonizes and meets community agreed-upon standards could be of immense value."

Applicants will define the scope of the project and the data types, and the awarded program is expected to maintain continuous dialogue through methods such as advisory and user groups.

Research topics could include a variety of efforts including comprehensive listings of known genes and gene variants that predict drug responses; definitions of drug responses; current knowledge of genotype-phenotype relationships; accessible views of drug pathways of metabolism, disposition, and sites of action; drug structures, structure-function relationships, and alterations in variants; data-sharing capabilities for addressing questions that can be solved through harmonizing new and existing data sets; possible sources for reagents and models; and other efforts.

Letters of intent for the PharmGKB program are due May 2. More information about the funding opportunity can be found here.


Foundation Working with NCGR on Multiplex Genetic Test for Rare Diseases

A newly formed foundation said this week that it is working with researchers at the National Center for Genome Resources on a multiplex test for rare genetic diseases.

The Beyond Batten Disease Research Foundation, which was recently founded in Texas and is supporting research efforts into finding a cure for the rare childhood disease, said that it expects an initial screening test for around 75 diseases to be ready in the fall of this year. The foundation did not say what technologies will be employed in developing the test.

Mark Chandler, a founding member of the board of directors of the foundation, said in a statement, "We are working to develop one easy and inexpensive blood test to detect the gene mutations for hundreds of rare diseases. The science is possible today. We just need the support of volunteers and financial donors to make it happen."

Batten disease is an autosomal recessive disease that affects the nervous system in childhood. Children who have the inherited, fatal condition suffer from vision loss and seizures. There is no known cure for the disease, which occurs in an estimated two to four out of every 100,000 live births.

The Scan

US Booster Eligibility Decision

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Arizona Bill Before Judge

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Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.