HepCgen genotyping service helps fight Hepatitis C, a "silent epidemic"
Genotyping provides route to tailored treatment at lower cost with less side effects
A new centralised genotyping service that enables clinicians to differentiate between types of hepatitis C infections is poised to improve treatment for patients with Hepatitis C, a severely under treated viral infection in the UK. The new service, available through HepCgen will allow clinicians to tailor costly interferon-based treatment regimes to the patients’ viral genotype, thus lowering costs and side effects.
Although five times more prevalent than HIV, most cases of Hepatitis C go undetected, prompting the phrase ‘the silent epidemic’, therefore it is important that, once identified, diagnosis and treatment commence without delay. “HepCgen’s centralised Hepatitis C genotyping service allows hospitals throughout the UK extremely rapid access to this important information, without the need for an expensive and time consuming in-house genotyping set up”, said Paul Colford, CEO of HepCgen.
Through early identification of patients with genotype 1, or non-1, HepCgen is able to distinguish patients that may require lower doses for shorter periods of time. This knowledge not only has obvious benefits to the patient by reducing medication and associated side effects, but also provides a significant cost saving to healthcare funders: HepCgen founder Dr William Rosenberg estimates a saving to the NHS of half a billion pounds a year if doctors routinely use this service.
HepCgen regards cost of treatment as a significant factor in the number of patients undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C and Dr Rosenberg notes, “Of the 400,000 cases in the UK only about 20,000-30,000 are in secondary care and of those, only some 2,000 cases are being treated, because the NHS won’t release funding for treatment.”
Further evidence of the importance placed on genotyping in the treatment of hepatitis C came with Roche’s announcement on 18th July of the European Commission’s approval of a new label for PEGASYS, Roche’s flagship treatment for the hepatitis C virus. The approval came as a result of a pivotal study by Roche, demonstrating that the duration of combination therapy and dose of Copegus (ribavirin) for chronic hepatitis C patients depends on viral genotype. Dr. Rosenberg continues, “We have demonstrated similar data with the Schering-Plough therapy, among others. The importance of identifying genotype in the treatment of Hepatitis C is becoming rapidly accepted. This recognition by the European Commission is strong additional testimony.”
“HepCgen currently provides its proprietary services to over 20 centres in the UK, most of which are reimbursed by the major pharmaceutical companies involved in Hepatitis C”, stated Mr Colford. “We would like to expand our services throughout Europe, as countries like Italy, Germany, and France are treating over five times the number of patients the UK chooses to, and will tremendously benefit by either using HepCgen services or licensing this technology. ”
HepCgen Ltd was recently spun out of the University of Southampton and specialises in diagnostics and treatments for chronic liver disease. Dr. Spike Willcocks, IP2IPO adds, “HepCgen is a very exciting opportunity in our portfolio, whose technology meets a now widely recognised medical need, and this step demonstrates the increasing value of the Company. Further development in this area could be rapidly accelerated with additional financing in the near future.”
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