By Aaron Lorenzo

Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc. entered into an agreement with AstraZeneca plc under which they will apply Genaissance¿s gene variation technology to one of AstraZeneca¿s target discovery programs.

¿Our company is focused on gene variation,¿ said Paul Oestreicher, Genaissance¿s vice president of public affairs. ¿We have what we believe to be the world¿s largest repository of gene variation information. We¿re very happy because they¿re a Top 10 pharmaceutical company.¿

The company also is involved in agreements with a pair of other pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson.

Under terms of the new agreement, London-based AstraZeneca will gain access to specific haplotypes, or HAP markers, from New Haven, Conn.-based Genaissance¿s HAP database and also use the DecoGen Informatics platform for correlating HAP markers to disease and/or clinical outcomes.

¿Some of the key components for us include, again, that [AstraZeneca] is a Top 10 pharmaceutical company,¿ Oestreicher continued. ¿It¿s a major foot in the door for Genaissance.¿

Financial terms and other details of the deal were not released. But like its prior pacts, the collaboration furthers Genaissance¿s science with respect to personalized medicine.

The company likens haplotypes to genomic bar codes that represent the pattern and organization of DNA variability that each individual inherits.

¿Basically, what we¿re studying is what makes us all different and how we can relate that to why we respond differently to medications ¿ side effects and differences in effectiveness,¿ Oestreicher said. ¿So we search for associations between variations of genes ¿ HAP markers ¿ and clinical outcomes.¿

After building a sequencing and genotyping facility, the company used a high-throughput process to discover nearly 100,000 haplotypes from more than 5,400 genes, with the eventual goal to discover the haplotypes for all human genes.

¿For any given gene, there are 18 versions of that gene, and those versions are the haplotypes,¿ Oestreicher said. ¿It¿s the pattern, it¿s the arrangement, of the SNPs in the gene.¿

In the past, the company entered into other arrangements with New York-based Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J.

¿It¿s somewhat different from our other agreements that focused on drug response, and this is on target validation,¿ Oestreicher said. ¿So it¿s another use, another value, that our HAP database can offer.¿

Genaissance will continue to work toward personalized medicine through such agreements.

¿I think it¿s a happy outcome that our first three agreements are with some of the top pharmaceutical companies,¿ Oestreicher said. ¿However, the goal is to have HAP technology become entrenched in the biopharmaceutical industry. We¿re working toward other agreements with other large pharmaceutical companies as well as some smaller biotechnology firms.¿

Genaissance¿s stock (NASDAQ:GNSC) fell 6 cents Tuesday to close at $4.40.

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