GenData Research Corp. agreed to provide genetic data to Celera Diagnostics for use in the latter's autoimmune disease research.

More specifically, GenData will supply DNA samples from affected individuals, associated clinical information and well-matched controls from its biomedical research repository that integrates biological samples with decades of medical and genetic information from population-based studies and analyses of multigenerational families. The Salt Lake City-based company is partnered with the University of Utah, the state itself and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation in Salt Lake City.

"Celera brings technology and experience in high-throughput, large-scale genotyping for discovery," GenData President and CEO Stephen Prescott told BioWorld Today. "That's complemented by what we have to offer, which in this case was extensive clinical or phenotypic information with respect to a disease and its various subtypes, connected with DNA collected under precise conditions."

GenData's core asset is its ability to provide commercial access to research using the Utah Population Database - an integration of statistics, clinical records and genealogical information. At present, the database comprises more than 7 million linked records, including genealogical records and population records that are linked to medical information. It stems from the state's large genetic foundation and ancestry.

Discoveries resulting from analysis of the database have pointed to multiple disease-causing genes in cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders, as well as autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, metabolic disorders, central nervous system disorders and age-related conditions. The company's autoimmune portfolio includes information on Type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and related lung disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The sample collection attracted Alameda, Calif.-based Celera Diagnostics, which has interest in an undisclosed autoimmune area. GenData's information is designed to support discovery studies that Celera Diagnostics is conducting on behalf of Celera Genomics for the identification of genetic markers associated with the disease. The research is aimed at discovering both therapeutics and diagnostics.

"We compare people with the disease to healthy controls, and in order to do that you need access to well-characterized DNA or RNA samples," Karen White, director of corporate communications at Celera Diagnostics, told BioWorld Today. "We have sample collaborations with a number of different academic collaborators, as well as some commercial organizations. That's a very important part of our research."

The agreement marks the companies' first partnership, but both declined to disclose financial terms. For GenData, a nonprofit entity founded about two years ago, the deal is its second in the last few weeks. In August it entered a collaboration with Batelle, of Columbus, Ohio, focused on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Prescott stressed that GenData would not offer its database via subscription, adding that the company has designed its operations to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the population that makes up its database.

"The business model unfolds with a close partnership with our founding entities, who have granted GenData certain broad licenses to provide commercial-sponsored research to the founders' assets," Michael Paul, GenData's chief operating officer and vice president for corporate development, told BioWorld Today. "So in some ways we are not a liaison but a partner with our founders to be a single point of service for the commercial industry to gain research access to these very valuable and unique assets."

To that end, GenData recently hired Al Harris as executive director of business affairs. Most recently, he had worked as the head of pharmaceutical licensing at Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill.

Harris said he was involved in establishing the relationship with Celera Diagnostics, which already has a number of genotyping studies to look at associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms and specific disorders. Such studies have focused heavily on cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis, White said, noting that the company has identified related SNPs that point to a person's risk or predict response to therapy. Additional genotyping research is being conducted in Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. Its gene-expression studies are focused on breast cancer and hepatitis C.

Celera Diagnostics operates as a joint venture between the Celera Genomics Group in Rockville, Md., and the Applied Biosystems Group in Foster City, Calif. All fall under the corporate umbrella of Applera Corp., of Norwalk, Conn.

On Wednesday, Celera Genomics' shares (NYSE:CRA) fell 20 cents to close at $11.59, while Applied Biosystems' stock (NYSE:ABI) dipped 9 cents to close at $18.18.

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