Firms will evaluate Protagen’s UNIarray platform with view to a future diagnostic.

Bayer Schering Pharma will use fellow German company Protagen’s UNIarray® platform to help discover new biomarkers in endometriosis. The collaborative contract between the firms aims to evaluate the UNIarray platform for discovering autoantibody patterns for the predictive diagnosis of endometriosis.

Protagen says endometriosis is estimated to affect 5–10% of women worldwide, but diagnosis currently involves laparoscopy followed by surgical removal and examination of lesions. In December 2008, Protagen teamed up with Bayer HealthCare to evaluate the UNIarray technology for the discovery of novel biomarkers in atrial fibrillation.

“Biopharmaceutical companies benefit from our UNIarray approach, a proprietary technology platform with the goal to develop diagnostics based on indication-specific autoantibody patterns in blood samples from patients,” comments Peter Schulz-Knappe, Ph.D., Protagen’s CSO and executive vp of diagnostics. “Indication-specific autoantibody patterns are not only present in classical autoimmune diseases, but also in cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and even in apparently healthy individuals.”

The UNIarray platform is based on a patented technology originally developed at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. The principle of the technology relates to the fact that everyone produces antibodies directed against human antigens in addition to antibodies directed against pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. In essence, the production of these autoantibodies reflects the immune response to a continuous remodelling of cells or tissues, which may be caused by a chronic disease process, Protagen says. 

The firm has developed what it claims is the largest collection of recombinant human protein-expression libraries derived from fetal CD4+ T-cells, brain, liver, lung, and colon, expressed in E. coli as His-tagged fusion proteins. The  technology allows the interaction of autoantibodies from patient samples with these potential antigens to be rapidly detected. Using this process, Protagen says it has discovered unique biomarkers for indications like autoimmune diseases, cancer, inflammatory diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders, which have been successfully validated through internal discovery and development programs.

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