By Debbie Strickland

Affymetrix Inc. and OncorMed Inc. have agreed to collaborate on development of a new Affymetrix GeneChip for the genotyping of OncorMed's BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast-cancer genes.

"Our contribution is to focus on what the chip should be aimed at analyzing — which parts of the gene and gene fragments — and how they can be used in clinical settings," said Doug Dolginow, president and COO of OncorMed.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Affymetrix will pay OncorMed, of Gaithersburg, Md., license fees, royalties and milestones for rights to the genes in this application. OncorMed retains other rights to BRCA1, which the company patented in August, and to BRCA2, for which the company holds a license for diagnostic services and products from Cancer Research Campaign Technology and Duke University, in Durham, N.C.

The Cancer Research Campaign Technology is the technology transfer unit of the Cancer Research Campaign, a cancer charity based in London.

GeneChips provide rapid genetic analysis using miniaturized, high-density arrays of DNA probes, or "chips," and software to analyze and manage genetic information.

Affymetrix and OncorMed meanwhile are nearing completion of their p53 GeneChip assay project. The assay uses more than 50,000 unique DNA probes synthesized on a glass "chip" to analyze the p53 tumor suppressor gene (exons 2 through 11), which includes the more than 400 distinct mutations that have been reported in the literature. The p53 GeneChip has been on the market for research applications since August.

In a separate agreement, OncorMed has agreed to purchase Affymetrix GeneChip probe arrays to monitor the expression of up to 250 genes associated with cancer in patient tumor samples.

"The next step is applying that knowledge in a controlled clinical setting to determine how genes contribute to the development and progression of disease," said Timothy Trich, OncorMed's chairman and CEO. *

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