PARIS Rhtne-Poulenc Rorer (RPR) has signed a licensing agreement with Affymetrix Inc., giving the French pharmaceutical company preferential access to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Affymetrix¿s standard and custom GeneChip arrays, instrumentation and software for monitoring gene expression in potential therapeutic compounds.

The GeneChip system is a complete technological platform for acquiring, analyzing and managing complex genetic information with a view toward improving the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of disease. It consists of disposable DNA probe arrays containing gene sequences on a chip, reagents for use with the probe arrays, a scanner and other instruments to process the probe arrays, and software for analyzing and evaluating the resulting genetic information.

For RPR, of Collegeville, Pa., the system adds another weapon to its drug discovery armory, which already includes considerable expertise in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics. ¿Affymetrix¿s DNA chip technologies and their products will allow RPR researchers to monitor changes in the expression patterns of thousands of genes simultaneously, [in order] to identify their association with disease progression or drug response,¿ explained Ray Jupp, head of molecular biology in asthma and inflammation at RPR and chairman of the company¿s Genomics Task Force. ¿It complements other target identification and validation technologies that RPR has accessed through external collaborations,¿ he said.

RPR spokeswoman Laura Hahn said the GeneChip system was to be applied initially in research into asthma and inflammation remedies, but would subsequently be used in other therapeutic areas as well. James Etheridge