COMPLEX TRAITS · Disease hunter buys BeadStations to examine SNPs and generate 'GeneMaps' of pathways
BY KEVIN DAVIES
October 14, 2004 | Following a successful gene-mapping partnership with one California high-tech company, Montreal-based Galileo Genomics is turning to another to finish the job.
Galileo has agreed to buy a pair of Illumina BeadStation 500GX genotyping systems, in a deal worth more than $1.5 million. The BeadStations, which can produce 1.2 million genotypes per day, will be used to identify the genes underlying five of the more than two-dozen complex diseases of interest to Galileo.
One area of intense focus is Crohn's disease — a chronic, progressive gastrointestinal disorder that affects more than 500,000 people in North America. In June, Galileo announced that, in collaboration with Affymetrix spin-off Perlegen Sciences, it had mapped the location of 10 novel Crohn's susceptibility genes, based on studies of 1,500 individuals from the Quebec Founder Population. "The [patient] recruitment has gone well, and there's quite a lot known about the genetics," says vice president of business development Bill Cheliak.
|Diseases on the Map
- Allergic rhinitis
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Crohn's disease
- Essential tremor
- Macular degeneration
- Migraine with aura
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Presbycusis (deafness)
- Type II diabetes
Having defined manageable candidate gene regions of 100 to 500 kilobases, Galileo is turning to Illumina's technology to examine single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in these candidate regions, which will help generate "GeneMaps" of multiple interacting disease-associated genes. "The GeneMaps will describe groups of interacting genes that define key biochemical pathways that lead unequivocally to the disease," Cheliak explains. "We hope to be able to say, besides, that these are the necessary and sufficient genes required to have that disease condition." Once identified, these genes will in turn be used for the development of potential diagnostics and therapeutics.
Another disease area covered under the agreement is osteoarthritis. The new agreement in this area grants Illumina a license to the resulting diagnostic rights, enabling it to create future diagnostic products containing the major biomarkers discovered in the program.
Flexibility is but one asset that Cheliak cites in the Illumina system. "The accuracy is incredibly high, which is critical when using multimarker haplotypes. And it's cost effective. We'll be putting through millions of genotypes per day."
Jay Flatley, Illumina president and CEO, also welcomed the agreement: "We are excited to be involved with Galileo and with its ambitious discovery programs, which promise to identify genes and biomarkers that will be important in shaping the future of medicine."
Galileo's research focuses on the Quebec Founder Population, a group of nearly 6 million Canadians of French descent that, like other isolated populations, offers many advantages for studies into genetic predisposition because of its historical isolation and homogeneity. Patients are recruited with the help of more than 850 clinical investigators and 200 nurses. Galileo encourages volunteers to "opt in" to a Biobank repository to assist in multiple research programs. In recognition of the essential contributions of the Quebecers, Galileo donates 3 percent of net profits to a trust fund for the benefit of the province.