Sequenom Inc. and CuraGen Corp. entered a collaboration to determine the biological context of disease-associated genes by using each other’s respective population genetics and proteomics technologies.

Specifically, Sequenom will identify high-impact genes associated with human diseases using its population genetics approach. CuraGen will apply its platform of proteomic technologies to further enhance candidate disease genes identified by Sequenom and to identify potential therapeutic intervention points by examining networks of protein interactions within disease-related pathways. CuraGen also will enhance its own targets using Sequenom’s single nucleotide polymorphism technologies and population genetics approach.

Specific financial terms and timelines regarding the open-ended arrangement were not disclosed, though the deal builds on a prior collaboration between CuraGen and Gemini Genomics plc, acquired by Sequenom last year.

“Our relationship with CuraGen essentially just expands on those existing programs since we acquired Gemini,” Sequenom spokesman Pete De Spain said. “Part of that program involved CuraGen having access to Gemini’s critical samples that will continue.”

In the original deal, Gemini and New Haven, Conn.-based CuraGen entered a drug target discovery collaboration to apply CuraGen’s PathCalling proteomics technology to ascertain the biological context of disease-associated genes. The agreement builds on an earlier agreement focused on determining the clinical relevance of CuraGen’s SNPs in DNA samples derived from Gemini’s clinical populations. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 11, 2000.)

“This gave us an opportunity to apply genetics to better characterize our targets,” said Mark Vincent, CuraGen’s director of corporate communications and investor relations. “Instead of just doing standard genomics, we were able to incorporate genetics.”

San Diego-based Sequenom and Gemini merged in a stock-swap deal valued at $238 million, with Gemini shareholders gaining ownership of about 35 percent of the combined company. Sequenom issued approximately 12.9 million shares. Sequenom also assumed all outstanding options and warrants of Cambridge, UK-based Gemini, which as a result have become options and warrants to purchase an aggregate of 1.5 million shares of Sequenom. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 21, 2001.)

The new deal is designed to identify and validate targets for their respective drug discovery programs.

“I think this deal builds upon the prior arrangements in that Sequenom has identified certain genes, and they’ve associated them with specific diseases,” Vincent said. “But they don’t have the capabilities to validate their discoveries as actual drug targets that’s what we’re bringing to the table.”

De Spain agreed.

“It works well for Sequenom because we can further develop our targets using CuraGen’s proteomics programs and technologies,” he said. “We’re both using the other’s technologies to develop our own targets. There really are some synergies there the technologies are very complementary.”

To date, Sequenom has identified and prioritized more than 120 candidate genes for widespread diseases. Sequenom will use CuraGen’s knowledge in mapping interactions of human proteins to validate candidate disease genes and move them toward clinical development.

“If you know that a certain gene is associated with a disease, we can use our technologies to traverse back up and down biochemical pathways, and identify other proteins and genes associated with that, and those may make better targets,” Vincent said.

A day earlier, CuraGen entered a multiyear drug target and validation agreement focused on oncology products with Cheshire, Conn.-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. CuraGen will retain rights to potential non-antibody protein therapeutics across all disease areas. Alexion will own the rights to develop and commercialize all antibody and small-molecule therapeutics against drug targets across all disease areas, and CuraGen will be eligible to receive licensing fees, development milestone payments and sales royalties from Alexion on pharmaceutical products stemming from the alliance. (See BioWorld Today, March 13, 2002.)