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Optherion Licenses Worldwide Rights to Develop Age-Related Macular Degeneration Diagnostics Based on Chromosome 10 Genetic Variations

License with University of Pittsburgh Brings Additional Key Gene Locus as a

Development Opportunity for Recently-Funded Company

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Oct. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Optherion, Inc., a company developing products to treat and diagnose dry and wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and other chronic diseases involving the alternative complement system, announced today that it has licensed from the University of Pittsburgh the worldwide rights to develop diagnostic products for AMD associated with specific variations in genes on Chromosome 10.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh published in 2005 their findings of a link between Chromosome 10, specifically the LOC387715 and HTRA1 genes, and AMD, the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 in the developed world. Genetic tests that can identify people at risk of developing AMD, or that can predict the likely rate of progression and end-stage outcome of patients already diagnosed, should enable medical professionals to intervene more aggressively at an earlier stage with lifestyle changes and available therapies, thereby changing the course of disease.

AMD is caused by degeneration of the macula, the region of the retina responsible for central vision. AMD is unique in that it is a common disease that has recently been linked to common variations in only a few specific genes, presenting opportunities to develop both diagnostic tests and disease- modifying treatments. There are 15-20 million people with AMD in the U.S. and more than 50 million worldwide.

Optherion announced on October 9 that it had completed a $37 million financing. The Company was founded following scientific discoveries published in 2005 linking the role of Complement Factor H (CFH) and Complement Factor B (CFB) -- both regulators of the alternative complement pathway - to AMD. Three gene loci have been strongly linked to AMD: CFH, CFB, and specific variations on Chromosome 10. About half of patients with AMD suffer from variations in the CFH gene, while 74% of the disease can be explained by variations in the CFH and CFB genes combined. Variations associated with specific gene loci on Chromosome 10 in combination with CFH are associated with about 79% of the disease.

Colin J. Foster, President and CEO of Optherion, said: "The licensing agreement with the University of Pittsburgh adds significantly to our portfolio. Optherion is now in position to develop diagnostic tests based upon the most recently discovered genetic associations of dry AMD.

"We are optimistic that the innovative discoveries we are licensing will lead to diagnostic tests that can help change the current paradigm of AMD risk assessment and patient care," Mr. Foster added.

The finding that genetic variations on Chromosome 10 are implicated in AMD was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh under the direction of Dr. Michael B. Gorin, an ophthalmologist whose career has been dedicated to studying the molecular genetics of hereditary eye diseases ("Susceptibility Genes for Age-Related Maculopathy on Chromosome 10q26," Johanna Jakobsdottir, Yvette P. Conley, Daniel E. Weeks, Tammy S. Mah, Robert E. Ferrell, and Michael B. Gorin (Am. J. Hum. Genet. 77:389-407, 2005)). Dr. Gorin in September 2006 became Professor of Ophthalmology and Harold and Pauline Price Chair in Ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA in Los Angeles.

Publications by other researchers have substantiated and replicated the links of CFH, CFB and Chromosome 10 to AMD. Additional research published in 2007 found that people with homozygous risk profiles for CFH, CFB and LOC387715/HTRA1 have as great as a 250 times increased risk of developing AMD.

About Optherion:

Optherion, Inc. is an early-stage biotechnology company that is developing products to treat and diagnose dry and wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and other chronic diseases involving the alternative complement system. Optherion's proprietary technologies are based on recent scientific discoveries linking certain genes to AMD. Optherion has offices and laboratories in New Haven, CT., and on the biotechnology campus of the University of Iowa in Coralville, IA.

SOURCE Optherion, Inc.
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