BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - UroGène SA and Lynx Therapeutics Inc. entered into a research collaboration to discover differentially expressed genes associated with prostate cancer, benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH), renal carcinoma and bladder cancer.

The companies expect to cast new light on the disease mechanisms involved in each case and plan to use the findings to develop new diagnostic tools and therapies for the diseases.

Lynx, of Hayward, Calif., will use its Megasort technology to analyze DNA samples provided by UroGène and identify differentially expressed genes by comparing normal and diseased tissues in the various disorders. UroGène, which is based at the Génopôle, the French biotechnology science and business park in Evry, will incorporate the findings in its overall research into urological cancers.

UroGène CEO Christian Grenier told BioWorld International that the collaboration was expected to last about 18 months. But he added that it would "depend on the availability of Lynx's technological resources and on our capacity to supply the necessary tissues and then exploit the data."

Megasort is one of several analytical tools Lynx has developed from its proprietary Megaclone cloning technology. Megaclone transforms a sample containing millions of DNA molecules into one made up of millions of microbeads, or DNA analysis templates, each of which carries approximately 100,000 copies of one of the DNA molecules. Megaclone also is the basis of Lynx's Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing technology, which generates gene sequence information and high-resolution gene expression data, and Megatype, which is designed to provide single nucleotide polymorphism disease association information.

UroGène focuses on the discovery and validation of new therapeutic targets in prostate cancer and other urological cancers and disorders. To that end, it has exclusive access to a high-quality cohort of samples from patients suffering from these different urological conditions and applies a mix of molecular, genomic, biological and clinical expertise to define the natural history of urological tumors.

This agreement is essentially a fee-for-service contract providing for UroGène to pay Lynx for its genomics discovery services and giving the French firm the exclusive rights to exploit the results of their collaboration. While declining to give further details about the financial terms of the agreement, Grenier did reveal that UroGène had embarked on a second funding round in which it is seeking to raise EUR20 million (US$17.8 million) and said he hoped to close it during the summer.

In its first funding round, completed last September, the company raised just EUR2 million. It was on that occasion that Grenier joined UroGène. Over the past six months, Grenier said, UroGène has filed seven patent applications covering therapeutic targets and taken on five more staff members, increasing its work force to 30.

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