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Genzyme Signs Five-Year Drug Discovery Deal with JHU Medical School

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BALTIMORE--The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine here has signed a five-year research agreement with Genzyme Molecular Oncology aimed at identifying cancer-related genes. Hopkins researcher Kenneth Kinzler will use Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE) technology to identify and analyze gene expression in cancer. Kinzler is the coinventor of SAGE.

SAGE is a high-throughput, high-efficiency method to simultaneously detect and measure the expression levels of most of the genes expressed in a cell at a given time. According to Genzyme, it can be used in a wide variety of applications to identify disease-related genes, analyze the effect of drugs on tissues, and provide insight into disease pathways. Use of SAGE increases the probability of finding rare genes because the technology is so robust and efficient, Genzyme claimed.

Genzyme obtained an exclusive commercial license for SAGE from Hopkins through the acquisition in June of Pharmagenics by Genzyme Molecular Oncology's parent company, Genzyme Corp. Gene expression data produced in Kinzler's laboratory will be merged with Genzyme's own gene expression database of more than 1.3 million SAGE tags, the company said, and Genzyme will have access to all SAGE-related discoveries and inventions made in Kinzler's lab.

Genzyme explained that SAGE works by isolating short bits of genetic data, known as SAGE tags, from the expressed genes in the cell that is being studied. The tags are linked together for efficient analysis, then sequence data are analyzed using SAGE's software to identify each gene expressed in the cell and the levels at which the different genes are represented. This information forms a library that can be used to analyze differences between normal and diseases cells, the company said.

"SAGE allows us to profile gene expression in a cell in a very simple way," commented Kathy Klinger, Genzyme Corp.'s senior vice-president for genetics and genomics. "Using SAGE to help us identify the expressed differences between cells will lead to a better understanding of the disease process at the cellular level and to the ability to develop new drugs that can target the underlying causes of disease more precisely."

In addition to its internal use of SAGE, Genzyme Molecular Oncology will market SAGE analysis services and provides sublicenses of the technology to other biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and genomics companies.

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