By Karen Young

Myriad Genetics Inc. is collaborating with Pharmacia Corp. on a research project in pharmacogenomics aimed at identifying genetic differences among individuals in the general population.

¿We hope to be able to identify differences in individuals that will indicate whether someone has a high risk of adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs,¿ said William Hockett, vice president of corporate communications for Myriad, based in Salt Lake City. Pharmacia is based in Peapack, N.J.

For the collaboration, Myriad will screen populations of individuals for polymorphisms, or differences in the particular genes that are the targets of drugs, Hockett said.

¿Let¿s say there are 12 to 15 differences in individuals on that one gene,¿ Hockett said. ¿We would hope to identify a group of those that were influencing the drug reactions.

¿There has been a great deal of excitement among pharmaceutical companies about pharmacogenomics, but the question has been how to make money at it,¿ Hockett said.

Since companies generally look for ways in which patients would have fewer side effects, it often results in fewer people taking a drug, rather than more.

¿This collaboration has found a way to increase the number of patients,¿ Hockett said. ¿Instead of preventing patients from getting the drug, we have found a way for patients who wouldn¿t get the drug anyway [to get the drug].

¿It potentially expands the market,¿ he said.

This initial phase of the collaboration will last for an ¿intensive¿ six months, although it will involve a ¿modest number of employees,¿ he said.

At the end of the six months, the two companies will evaluate the data and determine at that point whether to expand into additional programs, Hockett said.

Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed, although the companies did say that the collaboration ¿may enable physicians to use a patient¿s genetic profile to make more informed decisions concerning the health care management of their patients.¿

Myriad¿s stock (NASDAQ: MYGN) fell $2.78 Tuesday to close at $44.75. Pharmacia¿s stock (NYSE:PHA) was up 11 cents to close at $40.20.

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