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Schizophrenia data deal
MONTREAL-Genizon Biosciences and Neuropsychiatrie, Découverte & Innovation Inc. (NDEI) announced last month a collaboration that should aid both companies in their respective work in identifying the genetic causes of schizophrenia and in developing new therapeutics for the disease. Under the terms of the collaboration, Genizon will gain access to roughly 400 samples collected from the Quebec Founders Population (QFP) by Dr. Michel Maziade, founder of NDEI and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Laval. NDEI, in turn, will gain access to an unspecified research technology that NDEI will use for further analysis of the breadth of its more than 4,000 DNA samples.
"This was a good collaboration for both companies since we are not competing with each other," says Maziade. "We do not sell our data, but NDEI is looking to develop its own science for diagnostics and even its own therapeutics."
Genizon is known for its Gene-Maps, comprehensive maps of genes, genetic markers, biochemical pathways and drug targets derived from its genome-wide association studies which also use members of the QFP. Earlier this year, Genizon announced a completed GeneMap for schizophrenia, but the ability to gain access to Maziade's samples, collected over the span of 20 years, was a unique opportunity that can provide added focus and value to its work.
"We were aware of Dr. Maziade's work and have been talking to him about our work in schizophrenia," says Caroline Fortier, VP, corporate development with Genizon. "Once we completed our study, we went back to him to see if we could run his samples to enhance the power of our GeneMap."
Fortier says Genizon has received early interest in its schizophrenia GeneMap from a handful of potential pharma partners and customers. The next step is to move outside the homogeneous QFP population and conduct a replication study from the general population, a step that usually requires the recruitment of significantly more patients and samples.
"We are currently establishing collaborations for the replication samples and these samples would be from European population," Fortier notes.
For Maziade, the opportunity to gain access to Genizon technology was important as NDEI looks to enhance the quality of its data. A technology spin-out from the Univeristy of Laval, NDEI's samples date back to 1989 when Maziade started the university's genetics program.
While Maziade admits it is "tedious work", he is committed to both doing it right and to the families who have been willing to participate.
"I think what we have is unique on a world level," Maziade states. "Our samples are from several thousand persons and a large chunk is 46 kindreds. Our focus is not just schizophrenia, but bipolar disorder too."
Adding to the depth of the samples, Maziade has been conducting his studies longitudinally, and in some cases has clinical and psychological data that stretches over four and sometimes five generation within each kindred.
Maziade understands that this is a valuable resource and that NDEI has great potential to make an impact in treating the genetic causes of these diseases and not just the symptoms, as is the case presently.
"The market for a diagnostic test for schizophrenia is totally open, since one does not exist," he says. "And the molecules we discover to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder would enter a market that today is between $40 billion and $50 billion worldwide."