LGC licenses Orchid to test for drug metabolising gene

LGC, the UK`s leading independent provider of genetic testing services, has issued its first testing licence for the key DNA variant in the drug metabolising gene CYP2D6 to Orchid BioSciences Inc. LGC holds the exclusive commercialisation rights to the patented diagnosis of this `poor metaboliser` gene variation and, in granting this first licence, will make access to this beneficial technology available to leading companies internationally for the first time.

The gene CYP2D6 controls an enzyme in the human liver. About 6% of the Caucasian population have a genetically pre-determined deficiency in this enzyme. This means that they do not metabolise about 20% of currently prescribed medications correctly. The genetic variation in the gene CYP2D6, known as *4, was first invented by Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) scientists and patented by the Fund in the early 1990s. One of the inventors, Professor Roland Wolf, joined the University of Dundee and ICRF granted the University an exclusive licence. Subsequently, the University granted exclusive rights to LGC to commercialise and sub-license the technology in September 2001.

Dr Paul Debenham, Director of Life Sciences at LGC, and who has found himself to have the poor metaboliser gene status, said: “There is tremendous excitement in the field of genetically pre-determined drug metabolism, known as pharmacogenetics, about the growing understanding of how each individual may differ in their ability to respond to various medications, and in particular to avoid serious adverse reactions. This is an exciting start to the expansion of the opportunity for the public at large to benefit from understanding their own capability to respond to prescribed medications.”

The first sub-licensee, Orchid BioSciences Inc, has taken a non-exclusive licence for North America for an undisclosed sum, and the gene diagnostic will be an essential element in their Orchid GeneShield business focused on pharmacogenomics and personalised medicine. Product offerings being developed by the Orchid GeneShield business are designed to enable physicians, patients and health care providers to better match the right drug to the right patient. LGC is also in discussions with other companies to respond to their interests in licensing and developing tests built around the *4 genetic test.

Dr Richard Worswick, LGC`s Chief Executive, said: “We foresee this as the first of many licensing deals and the forerunner of tremendous growth in the pharmacogenetics business sector. We are most pleased to have completed this non-exclusive agreement with Orchid BioSciences for North America.”

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