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News

BTG strengthens non-invasive prenatal diagnostic technology patent portfolio

BTG : 29 September, 2006  (Company News)
BTG, the intellectual property and technology commercialisation company, announced today that it has strengthened its non-invasive prenatal diagnosis patent portfolio through the acquisition of a novel cellular foetal DNA diagnostic.
The technology, developed by Professor Maj Hulten, has the ability to identify foetal DNA from the mixed cell population in the maternal bloodstream. This will allow foetal chromosomes to be investigated for several chromosome disorders, including Trisomy 21 (underlying cause of Downs syndrome) from a maternal blood sample, without contamination by maternal chromosomes.

This novel technique, the Telomere Depletion Assay, is based on the difference in telomere length between foetal and adult cells, where foetal chromosomes are known to have longer repeats of the telomeric DNA sequence. By discriminating between maternal and foetal cells, TDA takes non-invasive prenatal diagnosis to a new level of reliability, thereby increasing the functionality of BTG’s existing non-invasive prenatal diagnostic, developed by Lo and Wainscoat, whilst at the University of Oxford. One advantage of the TDA technology is that it is a pan-cellular approach and is not restricted to the identification of certain cell types. In addition to the cellular aspect of the technology, there appear to be possibilities for identifying foetal free DNA in maternal blood, as well as its development as a forensic tool.

Each year in the UK, about 5 per cent of the 600,000 pregnancies are subject to invasive procedures (amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling), resulting in 0.5 per cent miscarriages. Among live born children, 1 in 200 carries a chromosomal abnormality and with the social trend in childbirth being that women are waiting longer to have children, concomitant risks in foetal genetic defects are more likely. Therefore, there is a growing need for a reliable non-invasive monitoring technique to determine chromosomal structure and integrity in pre-term foetuses.

Larissa Milne, from BTG’s BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit said, “TDA represents an important advancement in the area of non-invasive prenatal diagnostics. The reliable, routine differentiation of foetal from maternal cells and/or DNA has been a long-standing challenge in this field, and has prevented development of a non-invasive assay with true clinical utility. The use of TDA could give companies operating in this area a significant edge in product development.”

BTG is seeking to commercialise TDA through out-licensing, along with the intellectual property from Lo and Wainscoat. The cellular application of TDA, coupled with detection technologies such as fluorescent in-situ hybridisation (FISH), is being exemplified in Professor Hulten’s laboratory. Further development of the DNA component is underway, to enable TDA’s utility in DNA sequencing applications, such as PCR.
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