Two San Diego-based start-up companies, NovaDx Inc. and TeraBiotechnology Corp., are joining forces to develop a method ofrapidly screening diseased tissues with cloned antibodies to identifyproteins associated with the targeted disorders.

Eric Button, president and CEO of NovaDx Inc., said the technologyis designed to reduce significantly the time it takes to pinpointdisease markers.

As an example, Button observed, it took five to seven years toidentify the antigen for prostate cancer. "With our technology youcould find it in several months," he said.

Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed. But Buttonsaid NovaDx will fund the cost of developing Tera's technology forcloning antibody genes.

NovaDx is a medical diagnostics company traded publicly in Canada.Button said he expects to begin clinical studies with a diagnostic leadfrom the Tera collaboration by the first quarter of next year.

Robert Shopes, president of Tera, said his privately held company,which has eight employees, was founded last year as a spin-off fromStratagene Inc., of La Jolla, Calif.

"We make large collections of millions and millions of antibodygenes," Shopes said, "and we're developing a new technology tomake billions of antibody clones."

In the collaboration with NovaDx, Shopes said the strategy is to takeantibodies and search libraries of genes to find those that expressproteins associated with diseases. Once the proteins are found, theycan help clone the diseased gene.

Button said NovaDx intends to use the technology only to makediagnostics and is seeking "pharmaceutical companies to the developthe drug side of this."

NovaDx, which has 12 employees, was formed in June 1993 byformer executives of Hybritech Inc., a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co.

When they were with Hybritech, Button and his fellow NovaDxmanagers led Hybritech's efforts to get its prostate cancer testapproved by the FDA.

NovaDx's initial focus is on developing blood tests for arthritis andosteoporosis, Button said. The Tera collaboration gave the companyanother potential technology that has diagnostic and therapeuticapplications.

Last month NovaDx signed its first major corporate researchcollaboration with London-based SmithKline Beecham plc, whoseU.S. headquarters are in Philadelphia. The agreement coversdevelopment of NovaDx's Chondrex diagnostic, a blood test forarthritis. n

-- Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.