Quest to partner with Israeli biotech on MAP test

Quest Diagnostics ($DGX) is teaming up with Israel's RedHill Biopharma on a diagnostic test for mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis bacteria in the blood of Crohn's disease patients. RedHill is aiming to start studies of RHB-104 for this indication in both Europe and the U.S.

Last fall, RedHill acquired the exclusive rights to a diagnostic test for MAP bacteria from the University of Central Florida Research Foundation. Saleh Naser, a professor at UCF's College of Medicine, developed the technology for the test. Experts believe roughly half of Crohn's sufferers have MAP in their system, and the test should be able to identify those who carry the bacteria. Crohn's affects about 700,000 patients in the U.S. alone, the company notes.

RedHill's Patrick Mclean, who is the RHB-104 product manager for RedHill, said in a UCF article the acquisition of the test represented a "key milestone" in the development of a Crohn's treatment.

The development marks the latest in a series of biopharma-diagnostic partnership announcements. In fact, Quest was recently in the news for an FDA sign off for a companion diagnostic test for Biogen Idec ($BIIB) and Elan's ($ELN) multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri to help assess the risk for a rare brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

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