Inova picks up rheumatoid arthritis biomarkers from Dutch university

Inova Diagnostics this week bagged new technology developed at Hasselt University designed to identify a more sensitive collection of biomarkers for rheumatoid arthritis, once again setting its sights on early diagnosis of the debilitating condition.

Researchers at Hasselt, a Dutch institution, demonstrated a need for new biomarkers in the RA arena when studies showed that about a third of patients with the disease tested negative for the two standard serological markers: rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides (CCP). Their search for new markers led to the identification of 14 new autoantibodies and a 19% increase in sensitivity compared with the current testing methods, according to an Inova release.

In the study, 52% of RA patients who had already tested negative for the disease showed the presence of at least one of the 14 new targets. And 5 of the new autoantibodies had an especially frequent presence in seronegative patients. VIB, a Flemish research institute, helped the university patent the new markers and negotiate the license.

San Diego-based Inova is a leader in the autoimmune field, particularly in the detection of autoantibodies in the blood serum. The diagnostics company, which early this year licensed RA biomarker technology developed at the Leiden University Medical Center, did not disclose the terms of the Hasselt deal.

"Delaying diagnosis of RA can impact the quality of affected patients," said Inova Vice President of R&D Michael Mahler in a statement. "New biomarkers can aid in achieving better outcomes based on appropriate treatment at an earlier stage of this debilitating disease. We believe that the markers identified by the world class immunology researchers at Hasselt University, combined with the assay development expertise at Inova Diagnostics, should result in enhanced capability to accurately diagnose RA patients who are seronegative by existing markers."

The RA diagnosis arena has this year already shown to be of growing interest to investors. In January, Crescendo Bioscience collected $28 million to further commercialize its molecular blood test designed to detect 12 different biomarkers associated with the disease.

- here's the release