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Success for Polish Geneticists
June 29, 2015   
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Polish geneticists have developed a 100-percent accurate tissue compatibility test that promises to help reduce the number of rejected transplants in patients with blood cancer.

“We analyze all genes, which is why we achieve perfect accuracy,” says Jacek Wojciechowicz, CEO of Centrum Badań DNA (DNA Research Center), a company based in the western city of Poznań. “We are able to match donors and recipients in terms of compatibility, which translates into enormous effectiveness in terms of bone marrow transplants and reduces the cost involved.”

The test has been developed as part of a project called “Innovative genetic testing based on next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology.” The project started in 2012. Its total cost is zl.4.27 million, with zl.1.08 million invested by Centrum Badań DNA and zl.3.19 million in co-financing from the National Center for Research and Development (NCBR) under its Innomed program.

In the case of certain blood cancers, a bone marrow transplant is the only way to save the patient’s life. Prior to surgery, the doctors must make sure that the donor and the recipient are as similar to each other genetically as possible. For this purpose, both the donor and the recipient are profiled, which means genetic tests are performed. Genes responsible for tissue compatibility should be carefully matched. Practically speaking, 100-percent tissue compatibility is a guarantee of a successful transplant.

Most genetic tests performed today are 60-70 percent accurate. They are performed using blood samples, for example umbilical cord blood, but also bone marrow or on the basis of a buccal swab sample.

“Genetic testing technology has developed so immensely that we are able, by means of a single test, to examine all the genes responsible for tissue compatibility, using next-generation sequencing,” says Wojciechowicz.

Next-generation sequencing appeared on the medical services market three years ago. But sequencing alone is not enough; the key is good bioinformatic processing.

“We [at Centrum Badań DNA] are geneticists and biotechnologists,” says Wojciechowicz. “We noticed that there were no tests based on this technology available on the market and so we developed a unique test, an international first. We know that other companies have also started working on such tests, but we want to bring ours to market as early as August. We have already offered it to blood and stem cell banks.”

The test must be checked in practice and compared with those currently in use. That’s why Centrum Badań DNA teamed up with the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology in Warsaw, specifically with its umbilical cord blood bank. Tests performed there are less sensitive and less sophisticated, but of a type routinely accepted around the world. Experts will compare the tests, the old and new ones, and confirm their effectiveness on the basis of clinical specimens. This is sufficient for a medical product to be introduced into practice.

“We want to register our test as a medical product and offer it to other laboratories internationally in the form of a ready-to-use tissue compatibility test kit, packed in a box,” says Wojciechowicz. “All this takes time. We will be able to start providing laboratory services in August, after passing the stage of clinical sample evaluation.”

Centrum Badań DNA is carrying out the project in a consortium with the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology and the Institute of Rheumatology in Warsaw. The latter institution has identified the genes responsible for all possible forms of tissue compatibility. They can be evaluated with the new test.

“We are already in talks with umbilical cord blood and stem cell banks,” says Wojciechowicz. “We will be able to start providing services to them after the test is introduced into medical practice. It is a global product. We are in talks with pharmaceutical companies from Portugal that are interested in such a test and the technology. Poland is a relatively small market, but we have created a universal product that we want to patent. Everyone donating their blood or bone marrow to a blood or bone marrow bank should undergo the broadest possible array of tests determining his or her genetic profile. Information on this subject must be available to physicians throughout the world, in a global database.”

Centrum Badań DNA is a limited-liability company that deals with DNA research. It was founded in 2006 by researchers from the Poznań Science and Technology Park, based on their expertise in conducting tests used in the diagnosis of tick-borne diseases. The company has nearly 30 employees who work with researchers from several universities in Poznań and Warsaw. Together with several other genetic research companies, Centrum Badań DNA forms the Inno-Gene group of technology companies that is publicly traded on the Warsaw Stock Exchange’s New Connect alternative market.

Centrum Badań DNA plans to patent the new test together with the Institute of Rheumatology and the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology.

Karolina Olszewska
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