BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Proteome Sciences plc is making strides in its bid to commercialize its proteomics research, entering a licensing agreement that grants exclusive rights to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) blood biomarkers to IDEXX Laboratories Inc., one of the world's largest veterinary diagnostics company.

A company spokesman told BioWorld International, "We had people queuing up to do a deal with us. We chose IDEXX because they are the biggest." The terms were not disclosed but the spokesman said it was a significant deal including up-front and milestone payments and double-digit royalty rates from the Westbrook, Maine, company.

Developing a test around the biomarkers would make it possible for the first time to test live animals for BSE, an advancement that is bound to increase the size of the BSE test market. The test is expected to be available in 18 months.

Currently it is only possible to test for BSE postmortem, a market worth €105 million in 2002. The European Union has a cattle population of 80 million, and Proteome believes that a test for live animals could drive the market demand to 30 million tests, or €450 million per year. In addition, the availability of a live test changes the whole dynamic of BSE testing and is likely to lead to a requirement to test in countries that do not do so at present.

Christopher Pearce, CEO of Proteome, said the deal endorses the company's strategy of concentrating on protein changes and developing high-sensitivity differential expression of disease markers. "The results provided to IDEXX in a pilot study clearly demonstrated the power of our technology," he said.

At the start of the year, Cobham-based Proteome claimed it would be the first to commercialize a product based on proteomics when it announced a deal to use its biomarkers for stroke in point-of-care diagnostic equipment. The agreement with Biosite Inc., of San Diego, will see Proteome's biomarkers incorporated into Biosite's Triage rapid diagnostic equipment.

Pearce said that in addition to BSE and stroke, the company has a range of other biomarker research programs that are coming through to commercialization. They include markers for transplanted organ rejection and new-version Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease, the human form of BSE.