Spectra Biomedical Inc. and Glaxo Holdings plc announced Thursday acollaboration to identify the genetic base of and develop therapeuticsfor the common migraine.Glaxo, of London, will help fund three years of research by Spectra, aprivately held Menlo Park, Calif., company involved in its firstcollaboration. Spectra compiles data bases of patients and their familiesto correlate specific DNA sequences with particular diseases or traits.The company's Spectra-Link software system then analyzes genomiclinkage by mostly statistical methods.Stephen Peroutka, Spectra's president, told BioWorld that the deal"validates our approach, significantly strengthens the company andallows us to expand in other areas."Spectra is furthest along in the migraine area: more than 500 peoplehave been interviewed, Peroutka said. DNA samples are collected fromselected migraine sufferers and their families. Then the DNA of themigraine sufferer is compared to DNA of non-migraine relatives, andanalyzed to correlate specific DNA sequences with the disease."Clearly, we will identify the genetic base of migraine (during thethree-year agreement), which gives us two major commercialadvantages," Peroutka said. One is that it allows for development of adiagnostic test, and the other involves development of new therapeuticapproaches.Once a gene is found, the companies will be independent in terms ofdrug development, Peroutka said. Glaxo would get exclusiveworldwide rights to any drug it discovers and develops, and the optionto develop and market migraine drugs discovered by Spectra, whichwould retain certain U.S. marketing options. Spectra also is entitled tocertain milestone payments and royalties on Glaxo sales. Peroutka saidSpectra also would retain rights to any diagnostic products."Glaxo has done extensive research in the migraine area," RamonaJones, supervisor of media relations for Glaxo Inc., in ResearchTriangle Park, N.C., told BioWorld. In March 1993, "We came outwith what we believe is a breakthrough in migraine treatment withsumatriptan," a serotonin-based agonist called Imitrex in the U.S., shesaid.Peroutka, who helped found Spectra in January 1993, was a formerfaculty member at Stanford University School of Medicine, chief ofneurology at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Hospital, and director ofneuroscience at Genentech Inc. Spectra raised $2.75 million in August1993 in its first round of financing, which was led by InstitutionalVenture Partners. n

-- Jim Shrine

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