Dealing with data: BioVeris hooks into demographic database

In late November, BioVeris Corp. announced a licensing and research agreement with Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital (JGH) that will see the biomedical testing specialist receive worldwide exclusive license to a repository of demographic and serological data of the vaccination status of a large immigrant population. The company is looking to leverage the database to develop and sell products and services related to vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, such as measles, rubella, varicella, and Hepatitis A.

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GAITHERSBURG, Md.—In late November, BioVeris Corp. announced a licensing and research agreement with Montreal's Jewish General Hospital (JGH) that will see the biomedical testing specialist receive worldwide exclusive license to a repository of demographic and serological data of the vaccination status of a large immigrant population. The company is looking to leverage the database to develop and sell products and services related to vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, such as measles, rubella, varicella, and Hepatitis A.
 
Initially, BioVeris paid a $50,000 licensing fee and has agreed to sponsor a three-year, $400,000 research project at JGH focusing on Hepatitis B and C, diphtheria, and tetanus. The research is expected to further enhance the database and be used by the company for further diagnostics development.
 
According to Dr. Christine Greenaway, leader of the JGH project, BioVeris first heard about the database through a poster her group presented at the 44th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, held in Washington, D.C. in November 2004.
 
BioVeris officials were unavailable for comment, but the announcement of the agreement suggests that the company expects to develop diagnostic panels to identify and characterize the immune status for different target populations, including immigrants arriving in one country from different geographic locations. The announcement states: "Vaccination programs vary widely between different countries and the vaccination status of most adult immigrants is undocumented."
 
Greenaway concurs with the company's position, arguing that the approach is largely based on economics.
 
"Even though immigrants are generally healthier and have lower overall mortality than Canada- and US-born individuals, they are more likely to carry easily detectable and/or easily treatable infectious diseases and are more likely to be susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases," Greenaway explains. "Identifying which groups should be offered treatment or vaccination will be a benefit to both the immigrant and Canadian population. Improving the health of the young and vibrant immigrant population will ensure that they continue to be a productive contributor to the labor force."
 
As is the case with any research relying on demographic information about human patients, including here the country of origin, vaccination history, prior incidence of tested diseases, and serologic data, there is always a concern about individual rights and the need to maintain privacy. Greenaway is quick to recognize this need.
 
"The database sent to BioVeris has been stripped of all personal identifiers including the name and study number, so there is no way that any individual patient can be traced from the database," she says.


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