ParAllele BioScience Inc., as part of its move to the commercial side of things, signed a deal with Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. to discover genes and genetic variations around Type II diabetes.

Citing such partners as Yale University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, The Whitehead Institute and Baylor College of Medicine, ParAllele President Nick Naclerio said his company has "been out there in academic research," but said things are beginning to change.

"Expect to see more of these types of large commercial collaborations being announced," he told BioWorld Today.

In the deal, Nutley, N.J.-based Roche will provide clinical samples for ParAllele, of South San Francisco, in which ParAllele will aim to discover genetic variations. Using its single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) discovery and SNP genotyping platforms, ParAllele will look at samples from Roche clinical trials and collaborations with the goal of determining variations that are most often associated with Type II diabetes.

Discoveries of associations will be further evaluated by Roche in larger patient populations. Roche is funding the research, but further information, such as how long the work might last, was not disclosed. Naclerio also declined to detail how, if at all, rights to any discoveries might be shared.

ParAllele is "a comprehensive genetics tools company," Naclerio said, that is "focused entirely on providing solutions to our research partners." About 18 months old, the company offers SNP genotyping, genome variation scanning and expression analysis and is familiar with working as a collaborator. Now, though, it also has "begun to export our platform," Naclerio said.

Speaking about the Roche deal and similar agreements, Naclerio said they "involve taking sets of candidate genes and we discover all the SNPs in those genes that are in that company's patient cohort." By using a patient cohort, mutations can be found that aren't in public or private databases.

However, what makes the Roche agreement different, he said, is that "we are doing the [SNP] discovery on demand with the genotyping." Studies often are able to find associations that occur in 10 percent of the population, but "what people are finding is it's important to go below that," Naclerio said. By using the patient cohort, it's possible to find associations that occur in only 2 percent of the disease population.

The company in July signed a deal with Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., to conduct a SNP genotyping study using ParAllele's lab-in-a-tube technology for genetic research. Merck is funding that work, in which ParAllele will develop assays, perform multiplexed genotyping and provide data analysis as well as develop certain platform extensions of interest to Merck. Combining that agreement with the Roche deal explains Naclerio's statement that there is a "commercial momentum that is beginning to build" at ParAllele.