LONDON - Gemini Holdings plc, a genomics company that specializes in twins data, signed an exclusive agreement with Affymetrix Inc. to use an osteoporosis gene discovered by Gemini on Affymetrix GeneChip arrays.

Under the terms of the agreement Gemini, based in Cambridge, will receive an undisclosed up-front payment and royalties on sales of resulting products from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

Kate Scott, Gemini's head of business development, told BioWorld International, "It is a very nice deal, not only in money terms. To be collaborating with Affymetrix adds kudos and an important psychological boost. It shows that Gemini is obviously doing something interesting in its approach to genomics."

The gene concerned is Collagen Type 1 (COLIA1) polymorphism, which was identified in collaboration with Aberdeen University. Type 1 collagen is found in bone tissue, and people who have that particular variation of the gene have impaired bone mineralization and consequently greater risk of bone fracture.

While X-ray measurements of bone mineral density (BMD) are currently used to identify people who are at risk of developing osteoporosis, not everyone with low BMD suffers brittle bone fractures. Consequently, they may be given expensive and unnecessary treatments. However, patients with low BMD are up to six times more likely to be sufferers, and if in addition they have the COLIA1 gene they are 30 times more susceptible to bone fracture.

Howard Christley, Gemini's clinical director, said, "Medical treatment for osteoporosis has a significant cost burden, is not always without side effects for the patient and is not necessarily effective. A gene-based diagnostic could allow better selection of women more at risk of bone fractures and potentially have a beneficial effect on the management of this disease."

Gemini also has licensed the COLIA1 gene to Axis Shield Diagnostics Group, of Dundee, for the development of a diagnostic test.

"One of the nice things about these gene discoveries is that there can be an number of exclusive licenses each in different application areas," Scott said.