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UK Scientists make breakthrough in fight against Coeliac Disease

BTG : 03 October, 2006  (Company News)
BTG, the global technology commercialisation company, and Isis Innovation Ltd, the technology transfer company of the University of Oxford, announce their agreement for the commercialisation of a new coeliac disease technology developed by the University of Oxford.
The current blood tests for coeliac disease are frequently non-specific, leaving an intestinal biopsy as the only specific diagnostic test. The only treatment is the complete withdrawal of the toxic protein from the diet.

The Oxford researchers, led by gastroenterologist and principal investigator Dr Robert Anderson, have carried out extensive studies into the 'toxic' protein fractions in cereal crops and have identified the particular part of the wheat protein that, following modification by gut enzymes, causes the immune reaction associated with coeliac disease.

This opens the way for a specific diagnostic test for the disease as well as new prevention and treatment strategies, and even the possibilities of producing wheat that does not contain the rogue sequence.

The agreement grants BTG exclusive rights to Oxford’s proprietary technology, which provides for new prevention, treatment and diagnosis strategies for coeliac disease. The new technology has the potential to be the world’s only therapeutic treatment for the disease which may affect up to one per cent of the population in the UK.

The disease causes a wide variety of symptoms, which may include intestinal discomfort, diarrhoea, malnutrition, and weight loss. Over time, coeliac disease results in substantial damage to the small intestine and can lead to deleterious effects on other organs.

A significant percentage of the population suffers from this genetic disorder, and the impact on the quality of life for those who do is great. Maintaining a completely gluten free diet is difficult as prepared foods and food processing can contain unknown amounts of gluten particles.

Dr Jamie McQuade, BTG’s Business Manager for this technology, said: “Coeliac disease is a very distressing condition with the only currently accepted treatment being a lifelong gluten-free diet. There are no drugs currently available to treat this disease. We are excited to have acquired this technology and we will be working with Dr Anderson to further develop this treatment and to identify suitable partners that can take it to market.”

Dr Robert Anderson, the lead investigator on the research programme at Oxford University that led to the discovery of this technology, added: “The commercial expertise and financial support that BTG can bring to the development of this technology will provide an enormous boost in bringing this technology to the people that need it.”

Under the terms of the Isis agreement, BTG will have exclusive access to the University’s technology for use in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of coeliac disease. The technology is based on identification of the particular epitopes that cause priming of the immune system in coeliac disease. BTG will underwrite the development and commercialisation of the technology and will share any revenue from commercialisation of the technology with Isis and the University. Additional commercial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
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