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Pyrosequencing Further Courts Molecular Diagnostics Market Through Mycobacterium Pact With Cleveland Clinic

NEW YORK, Nov. 5 — A unit of Swedish genomic firm Pyrosequencing and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation announced plans on Monday to co-develop rapid identification and diagnostic tests for mycobacteria. 

This partnership, which was launched to create faster and higher-quality tests for diagnosing and identifying Mycobacterium tuberculosis  and Mycobacterium avium,  is part of Pyrosequencing’s broad plan to enter the molecular diagnostic-testing arena. 

Under this collaboration, Pyrosequencing’s Molecular Diagnostics business will adapt its technology for rapid SNP analysis in order to diagnose and type the bacteria. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, meanwhile, will provide samples, test the developing product, and conduct some research in its labs.

Financial details were not disclosed.

“You can look at these partnerships almost as extended R&D,” Jerry Williamson, Pyrosequencing’s vice president and molecular diagnostic business head, said in an interview. “We wanted to get real-world experience in the marketplace on how these products might be used by laboratories. That then guides us toward faster product offering—much faster than if we developed it internally,” he added. 

Through that business unit, which was launched earlier this year, Pyrosequencing is adapting its technologies for use in the clinical analysis of genetic disorders as well as for viral and bacterial typing. 

The company has recently struck up similar agreements with four other research partners, said Williamson. Other arrangements include a deal with the University of Geneva to develop diagnostic materials for Down syndrome, and a partnership with the Scottish Meningococcus and Pneumococcus Reference Laboratory in Glasgow, Scotland, for a method to subtype N. meningitides, which can cause meningitis and septicemia.

Williamson said that the company is now focusing on developing these diagnostic tests for clinical use and expected that its first product might make it to market some time in 2002. 

“We’re looking toward molecular diagnostic testing as the future of the company,” he said.

Nearly one-third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis, which kills more people annually than almost any other infectious disease. However, since most of those cases are in developing countries, Williamson acknowledged that a tuberculosis diagnostic might not be a lucrative product for Pyrosequencing. 

“In a way, it’s a demonstration product,” he said. “It will show the ability of our technology to distinguish, type, and subtype strains.”

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