Company will commercialize diagnostic for predicting patients’ responses to peginterferon alpha therapy.

Merck & Co. has granted LabCorp a nonexclusive license to use the IL-28B polymorphism in a commercial test to help predict an HCV patient’s response to peginterferon alpha-based therapy. Merck will receive an up-front fee from LabCorp plus royalties on sales of tests covered under the deal.

LabCorp has already developed an in vitro assay to identify the IL-28B polymporphism in HCV patients. An association between the polymorphism and peginterferon alpha response was identified by Merck and collaborating scientists through a genome-wide association study of nearly 1,700 HCV genotype-1 patients, the firm points out. The IL-28B link with HCV therapy identified through the Ideal study was first reported last year, and full data from the trial was published in Gastroenterology in May.

Merck says it plans to provide a limited number of nonexclusive licenses to the IL-28B polymorphism to established diagnostics companies. Global sales of the firm’s peginterferon alfa-2b HCV therapy Pegintron were $186 million in the first quarter of 2010.   

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