Augurex Life Sciences has formed an exclusive licence agreement with Quest Diagnostics for the development of a clinical laboratory-developed testing service for the US market, based on Augurex' rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 14-3-3? biomarker. Quest expects to launch the service in 2013. Additional terms were not disclosed. In addition to the agreement with Quest for the US market, Augurex intends to form regional 14-3-3? agreements with commercial laboratories outside the US, including in the EU, Asia and Canada.
Early diagnosis and treatment of RA is associated with more favourable outcomes than late-stage diagnosis. The 14-3-3? marker is a protein that is elevated in the blood of patients with RA that is relatively absent in healthy people and those with other types of auto-immune conditions. 14-3-3? appears to be even more elevated in patients with RA or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) who have joint damage. Data presented over the past two years describe the clinical usefulness of assessing 14-3-3? blood levels with currently available markers, such as RF and anti-CCP for earlier RA diagnosis, and with CRP, to profile parameters such as joint damage and response to therapy in RA and PsA.
Augurex has a number of research programmes investigating related forms and functions of 14-3-3?, which may collectively constitute a biomarker panel to further inform RA and other inflammatory conditions. In addition to its use as a blood test, data has been presented that describes the 14-3-3? protein as a contributor to the disease and that blocking it with drugs may serve as a therapeutic approach to treating patients with RA.