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OGI invests in personalized medicine for age-related macular degeneration

Established in 2007 and based in Toronto, ArcticDx has developed a test, Macula Risk, the first of its kind and specifically designed to determine one's inherited risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common form of acquired blindness in the developed world, affecting over 10% of individuals. ArcticDx will use the PBDF investment to undertake studies in support of a planned filing for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for Macula Risk.

Macula Risk detects variations in genetic markers known to predict the progression of early asymptomatic AMD to blindness using a cheek swab sample. The eyesight of individuals who are genetically predisposed to blindness can be saved through enhanced surveillance and early treatment. Macula Risk helps target effective care to those who need it most and relieves others who would otherwise live with uncertainty.

"The investment from OGI will support our filing for FDA approval for Macula Risk," commented Mr. Gregory Hines, CEO of ArcticDx. "We think this approval is an important departure from the growing trend of direct to consumer marketing of genetic tests that have only a weak link to science and are often of no clinical value. Macula Risk stands as the best example of a validated test for a multi-genetic common human disease. Achieving FDA approval will position Macula Risk for wide spread adoption."

The Macula Risk test will be marketed to eye care professionals who manage most cases of AMD in North America. These doctors will offer the test to individuals with the dry form of the disease who have not yet lost vision.

In the industrialized world, AMD is the major cause of uncorrectable vision loss in the elderly, affecting over 2.5 million people in Canada and over 25 million people in the USA. Age‐related macular degeneration is generally a disease of the elderly with the worldwide incidence of the disease growing from one in ten people over the age of 60 to more than 1 in 4 people over the age of 75. Macular degeneration is more common than Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

"Application of genomics technologies is opening the door to an era of personalized medicine in our approach to preventing, detecting and treating human disease," commented Dr. Christian Burks, President and CEO, OGI. "We are particularly pleased to be investing in a company that grew out of applied research funded by Genome Canada through OGI."

The funded work will focus on a cohort of patient samples who had early stage AMD in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), a large eye survey carried out by the American National Eye Institute. These patients were followed over a five-year period to determine progression of the disease. The ArcticDx team will undertake a prospective study on this cohort to evaluate use of Macula Risk in predicting which patients will progress to wet AMD (the late form of AMD) and which will not.

OGI's PBDF program invests in opportunities based in genomics, proteomics or associated technologies that fall in the proof-of-principle (validation) phase of research and that have the short-term potential to secure a significant next step towards the marketplace. Previous recipients have included Ontario universities, research institutes and companies.


Contact: Alastair Harris-Cartwright
Ontario Genomics Institute

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