Sydney, Australia - A company based in Adelaide in South Australia is looking for commercial partners to exploit two recent genetic discoveries - a gene associated with breast cancer and another involved in epilepsy.

Researchers at Bionomics Ltd. discovered the genes through different techniques. The breast cancer gene on Chromosome 16 was identified by matching gene expression levels in cancerous tissues with those of normal tissues using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines, mass screening and micro-arrays.

The earlier discovery of a gene associated with a group of inherited epilepsies known as idiopathic generalized epilepsies (IGEs) was achieved by tracking epilepsies through several generations of families in Australia. The work was done through the Epilepsy Centre at the University of Melbourne, which has considerable data on the occurrence of the disease in families, as well as collections of tissue samples.

Bionomics CEO Deborah Rathjen said that, of the two discoveries, the more important was the isolation of a gene involved in epilepsies. A number of genes associated with breast cancer have been previously identified by other groups, but no genes connected with epilepsy.

The provisional patent application filed by Bionomics describes a framework for IGEs, which comprise about 40 percent of inherited epilepsies, making it the most common type.

Rathjen said that although further validation is required, the model, devised by researchers at the University of Melbourne and the Women's & Children's Hospital in Adelaide, is likely to represent a major advance in the field of epilepsy research, explaining many puzzling aspects of the disease.

"As a result of the work being undertaken, what was once regarded as a complex polygenic condition now has the prospect of being well understood. This understanding assists Bionomics in its identification of validated drug targets and may lead to the development of highly specific treatments and diagnostic tests for IGEs."

Bionomics is conducting further studies on both genes. Studies of the breast cancer gene will be conducted over the next 12 months, and the company says that the results will be published in scientific journals.

The company raised A$7 million (US$4 million) in an IPO late last year. (See BioWorld International, Dec. 15, 1999.)

No Comments