By Nuala Moran

BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON ¿ The genomics company Oxagen Ltd. is teaming up with Cerylid Biosciences Ltd. to create the world¿s largest study of the genetics of endometriosis. The partners are already conducting separate family-based studies, and the pooled program will include over 1,300 families in which at least two sisters are affected.

Christine Soden, CFO of Oxagen, told BioWorld International, ¿There is a strong genetic trait to this disease but it has not been studied a lot.¿ It was the respective academic partners of the two companies who suggested merging the research. ¿There will be synergies in pooling the programs. [The two] represent the most advanced genetic studies in endometriosis, and the main problem in these studies is collecting enough patients.¿

The collaboration has an initial term of three years with Oxagen, of Abingdon, UK, and Cerylid, of Melbourne, Australia, sharing costs and benefits 50-50. It is planned to increase the number of families in the study to around 2,000.

¿Within that time we hope to have some good targets coming out of the study. A good diagnostic would also be very valuable in this disease, and that may be the first result,¿ Soden said. Both companies are at an early stage of development and it is likely they would look for a partner as soon as there are some good targets. ¿The work has attracted attention and we are already talking to companies in women¿s health.¿

Following the signing of the agreement, the two companies will pool their databases this week, and Soden said it is possible this will produce immediate results.

At present Oxagen¿s main programs are in cardiovascular disease and inflammation. But Soden said, ¿This is something where we have got more of a niche.¿

Endometriosis causes pelvic pain and infertility, and is estimated to affect as many as 10 percent of women of reproductive age. Current treatments are inadequate, and no preventive measures have been identified to date.

Oxagen¿s family-based study is being carried out in conjunction with the University of Oxford. Cerylid is the sole commercial partner for the Cooperative Research Centre for Discovery of Genes for Common Human Diseases, a collaborative venture between geneticists in Australia. In addition, the company has access to several unique populations, including the Australian twin registry and family pedigrees on the island state of Tasmania.