LONDON ¿ Sciona Ltd. has been granted a UK patent for its gene profiling system for detecting variants in 2,500 genes, which it claims are responsible for how individuals respond to drugs.

The 2,500 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) will provide medically relevant genetic information in 16 different disease areas, including respiration, cancer, metabolism, cardiovascular and CNS.

The patent will form the basis for standardized pharmacogenetic testing devices that can be applied in the doctor¿s office. These devices, or Genostics, would have wide application in predicting the individual course of illnesses, predicting likely therapeutic response, and selecting the best drug treatments, the company said.

Gareth Roberts, the inventor of the profiling system, told BioWorld International the promise of pharmacogenomics is that it will bring an end to the process of trial and error in medicine. ¿Before this can happen you have to make it simple for doctors to apply, which means you need a standard genetic profile,¿ he said.

As well as the 2,500 SNPs, the patent covers the concept of the gene profiling system and its application to medical practice and drug discovery.

Sciona plans to produce a Genostic in each disease area, with the first one dealing with SNPs relevant to absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of drug substances. It is expected to be available in the second quarter of next year, while the second, covering SNPs relating to oncology, will be launched before the end of 2002.

The company, based in Havant, Hampshire, is looking for partners to help it commercialize the technology.

Roberts said that while the 2,500 SNPs covered by the patent are not the only ones influencing individual response to disease and drug treatment, they include enough to be useful. The eventual aim is to provide a standard profiling system covering all SNPs relevant to disease, which can be applied in the same way to millions of patients.

Sciona is a privately held company that already offers a consumer gene-testing service, screening for SNPs affecting metabolism and providing personalized nutrition and dietary advice based on the screen.

CEO Chris Martin said the Genostic patent ¿will allow us to take that process a stage further and provide the same detailed information surrounding disease process and the most effective way of managing disease in individuals.¿ The patent was filed by Genostic Pharma Ltd., a start-up based in Cambridge. Sciona has agreed to acquire Genostic subject to the completion of a funding round to raise #3 million (US$4.4 million).