LONDON — Genomics company Oxagen Ltd. has signed its first commercial deal with Astra AB, to look for disease markers and genes associated with atherosclerosis.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Astra will provide Abingdon, Oxfordshire-based Oxagen and its academic collaborators with research and development funding for five years. The agreement also includes milestone payments and royalties on drugs or diagnostics developed as a result of the deal.

Trevor Nicholls, CEO of Oxagen, said the deal reflects the company's fundamental aim, which is to build collaborations between Oxagen, pharmaceutical partners and academic research groups. "We are delighted to have secured such a significant collaboration as Oxagen's first commercial partnership," he said.

The research will involve a consortium of clinical research centers in Sweden, Germany, Italy and the U.K., which will provide access to collections of samples from patients and their families with relevant medical histories.

Oxagen will subject the samples to high-throughput genetic screening and analyze the incidence of disease in families with a history of atherosclerosis to locate markers and genes for the disease.

The collaboration will be conducted through Astra Hassle, a subsidiary of Astra AB, based in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Oxagen was established in April 1997 with funding from the Wellcome Trust, Oxford University and private investors. To date it has raised £10.5 million (US$17.74 million). The company has established research collaborations in other disease areas, including a five-year deal with six bone research groups to identify genes associated with osteoporosis. *