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Posts Tagged ‘genetic diseases’


 

AGTC (AGTC) , An adenoviral gene therapy startup, expands in Florida with help from $1 billion deal with Biogen

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

from Biospace News

AGTC Sets Up Shop in Florida, New Facility to House 75 Employees
February 17, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation (AGTC), a biotechnology company researching adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapies for the treatment of rare diseases, is expanding into the rapidly growing north central Florida biotech corridor.

The company, which was founded on technology developed at the University of Florida, is opening a combined use corporate office and laboratory facility in Alachua, Fla. AGTC’s portion of the new multi-tenant facility is expected to accommodate up to about 75 people and consists of approximately 20,000 square feet including state-of-the-art lab and office space as well as space for future expansion, the company announced this morning.

“The new facility will help us to accelerate our research and development efforts for novel AAV-based gene therapies for rare diseases and house critical corporate functions including finance, quality assurance and project management, while providing ample space as we continue to bring new talent to our team,” Sue Washer, president and chief executive officer of AGTC said in a statement.

AGTC’s lead product candidates focus on X-linked retinoschisis, achromatopsia and X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, which are inherited orphan diseases of the eye, caused by mutations in single genes that significantly affect visual function and currently lack effective medical treatments. Retinoschisis is a condition in which an area of the retina has separated into two layers. The part of the retina that is affected by retinoschisis will have suboptimal vision, according to the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center. Achromatopsia is a condition of the eye that is characterized by an absence (partial or total) of color vision. People with the complete form of achromatopsia are unable to perceive any colors and can only see black, white and shades of gray.

AGTC is also pursuing pre-clinical development of treatments for wet AMD using the company’s experience in ophthalmology to expand into disease indications with larger markets.

In August, AGTC’s research was bolstered by a $1 billion deal withBiogen (BIIB) to support the company’s gene-based therapies. As part of the deal, Biogen holds a license to AGTC’s XLRS and XLRP programs and an additional three licenses, BioSpace (DHX) reported in August.

David Day, assistant vice president & director of the Office of Technology Licensing at the University of Florida, touted the growth of the biotech sector in north central Florida.

“AGTC’s progress in developing novel treatments for rare diseases without adequate therapeutic options is a particularly good model for the entire biotechnology sector,” Day said in a statement.

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Zebrafish Study Tool

Curators: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

The following recent report is of interest to biological modeling in cancer, cardiovascular, immune-mediated and metabolic diseases.  The method duplicates genetic variants related to the disease in specifically craniofacial disorders in people transfected into the Zebrafish, but it has a potential to be extended to other diseases.

New Zebrafish Study Tool Looks Promising for Human Disease Research

Scientists at Duke University say they have connected rare and precise duplications and deletions in the human genome to their complex disease consequences by duplicating them in zebrafish. The findings are based on studies of five people missing a small fragment of their genome and suffering from a mysterious syndrome of craniofacial features, visual anomalies, and developmental delays, according to the researchers.

When those patient observations were coupled to analyses of the anatomical defects in genetically altered zebrafish embryos,

  • the investigators were able to identify the contribution specific genes made to the pathology.
  • They believe they have developed a new tool that can now be applied to unraveling many other complex and rare human genetic conditions.

The findings are published in the research article titled –

SCRIB and PUF60 Are Primary Drivers of the Multisystemic Phenotypes of the 8q23.4 Copy-Number Variant

The findings are broadly important for human genetic disorders because

  • copy-number variants (CNVs), which are fragments of the genome that are either missing or existing in extra copies, are quite common.

The precise contribution to diseases causation  has been difficult to determine because

  • CNVs can affect the function of many genes simultaneously.

“Because a CNV can perturb many genes, it is difficult to know which of them is responsible,” said Nicholas Katsanis, Ph.D., a professor of cell biology who directs the Center for Human Disease Modeling and the Task Force for Neonatal Genomics at Duke.

Last year, Dr. Katsanis and his team found

  • they could trace recurrent copy-number variants and
  • dissect the consequences of each perturbed gene to particular features in patients.

The new study goes one step further by showing that they can also do this in more challenging cases, when CNVs differ in size from one individual to the next. In this case, “each person has his or her own private deletion or duplication,” added Dr. Katsanis, with the potential to affect a different number of genes.

The researchers showed that partially overlapping microdeletions found in the human patients include a region that contains three genes. By manipulating those genes in zebrafish,

  • first one at a time and then
  • in combination,

they were able to connect the genes to specific features of the human syndrome.

“Fine mapping localized a commonly deleted 78 kb region that contains three genes: SCRIB, NRBP2, and PUF60,” write the researchers in the American Journal of Human Genetics. “In vivo dissection of the CNV showed

  • discrete contributions of the planar cell polarity effector SCRIB and
  • the splicing factor PUF60 to the syndromic phenotype, and
  • the combinatorial suppression of both genes exacerbated some, but not all, phenotypic components.

Consistent with these findings, we identified an individual with microcephaly, short stature, intellectual disability, and heart defects with a de novo c.505C>T variant leading to a p.His169Tyr change in PUF60.”

In principle, the Duke group says they can now examine the role of copy-number variants in any human syndrome,

  • so long as the condition is associated with features that are measurable in the fish.

“We will need to study lots of CNVs to find the edges of our capabilities,” explained Dr. Katsanis. “As we add this layer of dissection and interpretation, we will have prediction, diagnosis, and the beginnings of biological understanding.”

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