LONDON - Genomics company Gemini Research Ltd. has signed a collaboration with Affymetrix Inc. that will initially work to identify polymorphisms related to osteoporosis.

The collaboration will involve the development of Affymetrix GeneChip probe arrays to screen a library of osteoporosis candidate genes from DNA samples provided by Gemini from its twins database. Polymorphisms in these genes will be analyzed in the context of Gemini's proprietary database of phenotypes, called Phenobase.

Phenobase contains clinical data derived from twin studies covering more than 500 clinical traits or measures and relating to conditions ranging from osteoporosis to cardiovascular diseases and glaucoma. This analysis will make it possible to link specific polymorphisms with the occurrence of osteoporosis.

Dirk Gervert, director of genomics for Gemini, told BioWorld International, “The output of this collaboration will be a number of polymorphisms that would be diagnostic, or perhaps prognostic, for osteoporosis.“ These will be incorporated by Affymetrix onto a new osteoporosis GeneChip.

No money is involved in the deal, and Gervert said he expects the work to be completed later this year. The two companies anticipate the collaboration will be extended into other disease areas. “This is a very significant relationship,“ he said. “We have a very large database which can be applied to many diseases.“

Gemini, based in Cambridge, will have the rights to any therapeutic targets, while Affymetrix will have all diagnostic rights. Gervert said the tie-up with Affymetrix will allow Gemini to exploit its twins database more rapidly.

“The GeneChip is a very interesting technology which affords many benefits over existing screening technologies,“ Gervert added. “It will increase speed and reduce costs for genotyping.“

Phenobase contains clinical and genetic information on more than 4,500 individuals, mainly pairs of non-identical twins, collected at 13 centers around the world. The individuals are volunteers and are not selected on the basis of having a disease. Each individual is genotyped and his or her phenotype is assessed on the basis of 500 clinical data points.

The relationship with Affymetrix will demonstrate the potential of Phenobase in target discovery and validation. “We can provide a means for pharmaceutical and genomics companies to prioritize their research targets and hence accelerate their discovery processes,“ said Paul Kelly, CEO of Gemini. *