The PROOF Centre, a cluster of UBC scientists focused on developing biomarkers for chronic organ disease, has granted a U.S. company exclusive rights to commercialize gene expression blood tests to help predict which patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are more likely to experience frequent “lung attacks.”
Lung attacks, or exacerbations, are the leading cause of emergency room visits and hospitalizations among chronic disease sufferers, accounting for over $5.7 billion direct, and $6.7 billion indirect healthcare costs every year in Canada alone. When patients seek treatment for such episodes, it’s difficult to know if it’s a rare flare-up, or the beginning of a downward spiral that requires more aggressive treatment, including daily exercise and respiratory therapy. A large portion of COPD-related mortality is due to lung attacks.
Under the agreement, HTG Molecular Diagnostics, of Tuscon, Arizona, will develop the biomarker assay on its proprietary platform. Researchers from the PROOF Centre will stay involved in the clinical validation of the test, and will also support HTG’s application for regulatory approval in the U.S.
“The development of these blood tests has been driven by a huge unmet clinical and social need,” said Bruce McManus, Director of the PROOF Centre and a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “This agreement with HTG Molecular Diagnostics will facilitate bringing these tests to market faster, providing physicians with tools to improve patient care and management and help alleviate suffering of patients with COPD.”
The PROOF Centre analyzed clinical data and blood samples from 700 patients in the search for signals of the severity of a lung attack. The not-for-profit organization, a national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research based at St. Paul’s Hospital, had received $1.5 million in funding from Genome British Columbia to develop the test from a promising set of biomarkers.