A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Sequenom (San Diego) and Iceland Genomics (Reykjavik, Iceland) reported entering into a research collaboration to analyze Sequenom's proprietary panels of genetic markers associated with breast and prostate cancer in Icelandic patient samples.

The U.S. firm said the results of this collaboration could provide further validation of its genetic markers predisposing for breast and prostate cancer and improve the understanding of the role of the markers in disease onset, progression and therapeutic response.

Sequenom's genetic markers were discovered through a series of genome-wide association studies and subsequently replicated in multiple independent clinical collections. Among the markers to be studied in the Icelandic population are single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the ICAM and NuMA gene regions.

Iceland Genomics and Sequenom will jointly analyze the resulting data to determine to what extent the disease predisposition markers are associated with specific clinical endpoints.

"The collaboration between our two companies may lead to important breast and prostate cancer diagnostic and prognostic applications in the field of molecular medicine," said Steve Zaniboni, acting CEO of Sequenom. "The study should provide insight to what extent genetic markers that predispose an individual to a higher disease risk affect disease progression and therapeutic outcome."

Zaniboni said the company has identified and validated more than 60 high-confidence candidate gene regions in 11 major disease areas. "This collaboration is part of a program to establish the diagnostic value of [our] disease gene portfolio beyond disease predisposition," he said.

Dana Hosseini, CEO of privately held Iceland Genomics, said, "Iceland is a very exciting and rewarding place for performing genetic analysis of complex diseases such as cancer. Comprehensive clinical data combined with the participation and goodwill of Icelanders and the clinical community provides an unparalleled basis for a successful research effort."

Iceland Genomics will utilize its large collections of breast and prostate cancer patient samples and clinical databases to test and validate the markers.

The results of the collaboration are expected to increase the utility and value of Iceland Genomics' cancer genomic database.

Sequenom has commercialization rights for products developed as a result of the collaboration, with Iceland Genomics to receive royalties from sales of any such products.

Sequenom's MassARRAY system is a high-performance DNA analysis platform that precisely measures the amount of genetic target material and variations therein.

New translational medicine partners

Affymetrix (Santa Clara, California) and the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm, Sweden) said they have entered into an alliance designed to improve healthcare by accelerating the translation of basic genetic research into tools for better diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

Over the next five years, the projects to be undertaken under the alliance part of the Affymetrix Translational Medicine Initiative include genetic analyses and measurement of gene expression in patients with atherosclerosis, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and dyslexia.

Affymetrix and the institute said systematic use of the genomic information obtained would enable development of new and better clinical methods and drugs, thus reducing mortality and improving quality of life for patients suffering from these diseases.

The translational medicine research projects will use sufficiently large sample sizes to establish true clinical relevance of both gene expression and DNA sequence variation in key areas of unmet medical needs.

VScan test kits on sale in Russia

Medical Services International (Edmonton, Alberta) said it has begun shipping its VScan HIV test kits into Russia. In addition to the HIV kits, there has been an expressed interest and demand for the VScan TB test kit, the company said.

The VScan rapid test kit is a single-use test for the screening of HIV 1 & 2, hepatitis B & C, tuberculosis, Dengue fever, West Nile virus and syphilis.

The company said marketing studies for the region show that it is reasonable to expect that there will be a demand for 2 million to 3 million VScan test kits a year. It said the distributors that have been signed for Eastern Europe have indicated that the demand for test kits for HIV and TB is increasing substantially and the fact that VScan is easy to use, very accurate using whole blood and requires no refrigeration will create a significant demand for the kits.

Alliance aimed at cancer diagnostics

Institut Curie (Paris) and Affymetrix (Santa Clara, California) have formed an alliance that will use GeneChip microarray technology in large-scale clinical studies to produce genetic signatures for different types of cancer and be used to develop diagnostic tests.

Institut Curie will conduct the studies from its translational medicine division. The first two projects will focus on identifying genetic markers for cancer prognosis.