GeneMap for Crohn’s: Genizon BioSciences and ICMB one step closer to answers

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MONTREAL—Genizon BioSciences Inc. and London Genetics Ltd. today announced an agreement under which they will collaborate to replicate discoveries made by Genizon in a genome-wide association study of schizophrenia. Genizon's study identified multiple genes associated with the disease using DNA samples from the Quebec Founder Population.
MONTREAL—September 5, 2007—In a recent issue of PNAS, researchers from Genizon BioSciences describe the identification of four novel genes associated with Crohn's disease, the result of the company's GeneMap studies of the Quebec Founder Population and two German populations. "These discoveries provide new and exciting information on how tissue repair, epithelial defence, and immune response may be targeted producing more effective therapies," says Genizon collaborator Professor Stefan Schreiber, director of the Institute for Clinical Molecular Biology at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein. "They open the door to truly understand the mechanisms of the disease and how therapies ideally should work."
MONTREAL—January 15, 2007—Genizon Biosciences continues to leverage its expertise in whole-genome association studies and the Quebec Founder Population, announcing a license and collaboration agreement with Pfizer. Under the terms of the deal, Pfizer will pay Genizon upfront licensing fees and fund research on genetic variations associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's, ADHD, and endometriosis, with an eye to the discovery of diagnostic markers.
MONTREAL—August 8, 2006—Genizon BioSciences announces the signing of a license and collaboration agreement with Genentech that will see the biotech giant gain access to Genizon's Crohn's Disease GeneMap, developed from whole-genome association studies of the Quebec Founder Population. While financial terms were not disclosed, the deal will see Genizon receive an upfront payment, research funding, and milestone payments for any products that emerge from the collaboration.
MONTREAL—Canadian biotech Genizon BioSciences recently completed a study with researchers at University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein's Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (ICMB), based in Kiel, Germany, that provides a detailed map of the chromosomal regions involved in Crohn's disease. The study should add significantly to the flurry of activity in the market for drugs targeting the gastrointestinal disorder, which is expected to surpass $800 million by 2013, according to a November 2004 report by Decision Resources.
The work was largely an extension and validation of a whole-genome association study that Genizon had completed on the Quebec Founder Population (QFP), a genetically isolated group derived from 2600 individuals who came to Quebec in 1608-1760. In that study, Genizon used 165,000 polymorphic markers spread across the genome to establish a marker map that allowed researchers to correlate specific markers with disease, linking gene information to pathway and protein interaction data using Ingenuity's Pathway Analysis system.
According to Genizon founder and chief geneticist, Dr. John Raelson, the QFP and map "provide a cost-effective and powerful alternative to using samples from a general population with the minimal set of 300,000 to over 500,000 tag SNPs estimated from the HapMap project."
To replicate and validate the work with a wider population sample, Genizon sought a partner who was strong both scientifically and clinically. Dr. Stefan Schreiber, ICMB director, was the ideal choice, says Dr. Tim Keith, Genizon CSO, because his lab is among the world's leading academic centers for clinical research and, specifically, inflammatory bowel disease gene discovery. The collaboration helped Genizon further refine the GeneMap derived from the QFP and identify key participants in the disease process.
"Our emerging Crohn's disease GeneMap is comprised of at least 15 candidate susceptibility genes and more than 30 additional network genes, focused in the physiological processes involved in inflammation, gastrointestinal diseases and cell growth," says Dr. Majid Belouchi, Genizon founder and CTO. "This network provides in depth knowledge on the pathophysiology of the disease as well as key insights into disease pathways and the identification of the best targets for drug discovery."
The findings come at a key time as pharmaceutical companies worldwide are searching for therapeutics that directly target the causes or triggers of Crohn's disease rather than ameliorate the symptoms.
"Currently, therapies for Crohn's disease are immunosuppressive," explains Schreiber. "Unfortunately, none of these therapies cure the disease and patients are subjected to unpleasant side effects, which are common for immunosuppressive agents. The enormous power of Genizon's platform is that from knowing most of the disease genes, the primary pathophysiological pathways causing disease can be reconstructed. This will not only lead to a better understanding of the true causes of the disease, but also to new classes of therapy and to pharmacogenetic markers to subdivide the patient population."
Genizon, however, is not set up to develop the drugs itself and is looking to license the GeneMap information to a pharmaceutical or biotech partner. Says Dr. Bill Cheliak, company vice president of business development: "Our partner of choice will be one who is best able to commit the financial and human resources necessary to fully exploit these discoveries from a strategic, intellectual, development, clinical and sales perspective."The company is also looking to extend the GeneMap technology to several other disease states. "Genizon has collected population samples to be used in association studies for more than 20 diseases and is planning to carry out six whole genome association studies in 2006," says Belouchi.

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