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Nanogen licenses rights to gene linked to hereditary deafness.

Nanogen, Inc. (San Diego, CA) signed a license agreement with Institut Pasteur (Paris, France) that grants Nanogen exclusive rights in Europe to certain patents and patent applications relating to detection of mutations in the GJB2 gene for the diagnosis of hereditary deafness. The company plans to develop a molecular diagnostic product that can be customized by European molecular testing labs to screen newborns for hereditary deafness. Financial terms of the license agreement were not disclosed.

"Early identification of deafness in infants is critical to providing clinical care and ensuring social development. Too often deafness is misdiagnosed as a learning or mental disability resulting in inappropriate therapy or educational approaches. If diagnosed early, infants can be given speech therapy essential to progress later in life," said Howard C. Birndorf, Nanogen's chairman of the board and chief executive officer. "There is no genetic test available in Europe to identify whether infants have inherited deafness, and we've secured exclusive rights to intellectual property for this important gene from Institut Pasteur, a major pioneer in research into the genetics of deafness."

About one to three in 1,000 infants have profound hearing loss, making it one of the most common disabilities in newborns. Principal investigator Dr. Christine Petit's team at the Sensory Deficit Genetics laboratory at Institut Pasteur identified many of the genes implicated in early-onset forms of deafness. The GJB2 gene that encodes a protein called connexin 26 was demonstrated to be associated with 25% to 50% of the cases of hereditary deafness in Western countries, as well as in countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, Dr. Petit's group has recently shown that the vast majority of sporadic cases of deafness occurring in people from developed countries are of genetic origin. The identification of mutations in the GJB2 gene is then crucial for diagnosis of deafness.

Universal newborn screening for hearing loss using auditory or behavioral tests has been widely adopted, since it is known that early identification and management of deafness is important for the development of language and social skills. Genetic testing can help predict or identify the cause of hearing loss as well as whether it will deteriorate. Early detection of deafness can facilitate early interventions, such as personal amplification devices, cochlear implants, or speech therapy, which can significantly influence a child's ability to communicate and learn. An additional benefit of early genetic testing is that it facilitates establishing a cause for hearing loss, obviating the need for more extensive medical evaluation and subsequently reducing medical costs. Genetic testing for hereditary deafness can also be offered for carrier detection during reproductive counseling.

Nanogen develops and commercializes molecular diagnostic products for the gene-based testing market. The company seeks to establish the NanoChip Molecular Biology Workstation and NanoChip Cartridge as the standard platform for the detection of genetic mutations and is also developing its technology for forensic and biowarfare applications. Nanogen offers Analyte Specific Reagents and related products to research laboratories and clinical reference labs for the detection of genetic mutations associated with a variety of diseases, including cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's disease, hereditary hemochromatosis, cardiovascular disease, beta thalassemia and Canavan disease. The unique, open-architecture design of its NanoChip System provides laboratories with a flexible platform to develop and validate tests to quickly, accurately, and cost effectively detect mutations associated with the diagnoses, prediction, screening, treatment and monitoring of diseases. The NanoChip System is intended for laboratory use only.

The Institut Pasteur is a non-profit private foundation mainly dedicated to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases through scientific and medical research, education and public health activities. Biomedical research is also focused on non-infectious diseases: genetic diseases, brain disorders and some cancers. Its main campus in Paris houses 130 research units and laboratories, with a total of 2500 people.

Nanogen, Inc.


The Institut Pasteur
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Publication:BIOTECH Patent News
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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