LONDON - Chiroscience Group plc, of Cambridge, U.K., split its DNA analysis technologies out of the Seattle drug discovery division, creating a new subsidiary named Rapigene Inc.

The new company, based in Seattle, will focus on the $19 billion in vitro diagnostics market, and on the use of pharmacogenomics in clinical trials, a market which Chiroscience estimates will exceed $750 million by 2005.

John Padfield, CEO of Chiroscience, will also serve as CEO of Rapigene, but the company is looking for a president and chief operating officer. Although Chiroscience's gene-based drug discovery research will continue separately, it will have access to Rapigene's technologies.

“The business opportunities in the analysis of DNA in all aspects of drug R&D are immense,“ Padfield told BioWorld International. “We believe that we have a competitive edge because we have flexible, rapid DNA analysis systems.

“These new technologies, created in Seattle, now require their own space and will be best developed as a stand-alone business which is expected to generate its own profit stream.“

Discussions are taking place with a number of potential partners in areas such as diagnostics, instrumentation, pharmaceutical research and development, and contract research. Chiroscience last month signed a collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, of New York, for the development of oral cancer drugs based on matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors, involving the use of Rapigene's technologies to select patients for clinical trials who are more likely to respond to treatment. - Nuala Moran