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23andMe, Pfizer Partner on Bowel Disease Genetics

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12 August 2014. The pharmaceutical company Pfizer and personal genetics company 23andMe in Mountain View, California are researching genetic factors associated with inflammatory bowel disease, for which Pfizer is testing several treatments. Financial aspects of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Inflammatory bowel disease is the name given to disorders of the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the conditions are responsible for 700,000 doctor visits as well as 100,000 hospitalizations each year in the U.S., and because there is no cure, they require a lifetime of care.

Crohn’s disease results in inflammation of the digestive tract lining and can spread deep into affected tissues. The disorder is characterized by diarrhea and abdominal pain, and can lead to malnutrition. With ulcerative colitis, the inflammation usually affects the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum. Symptoms can range from pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding to unintended weight loss, dehydration, and shock.

Under the agreement, the companies will explore genetic factors influencing the onset of inflammatory bowel disease, as well as its progression, severity, and variations in response to treatments. Some 10,000 participants residing in the U.S.  with inflammatory bowel disease will be recruited for the study. There will be no charge for participants, with all data kept anonymous, according to 23andMe.

Each participant will be asked to provide a saliva sample that 23andMe will analyze for genomic composition. Participants will also be asked to complete a 15-minute online survey about their experiences with the disease. People taking part will receive 23andMe’s standard personal genome analysis, including ancestry, as well as a DNA profile that their physicians can review for medical implications.

Pfizer is testing several compounds and biologics in clinical trials for inflammatory bowel disease. Its current rheumatoid arthritis drug tofacitinib, marketed under the name Xeljanz, is in a late-stage trial as a treatment for ulcerative colitis. Pfizer is also testing tofacitinib for Crohn’s disease in an intermediate-stage study.

The biologics code-named PF-00547659, PF-04236921, and PF-05285401 are likewise in intermediate-stage trials for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In addition, the biologic code-named PF-06480605 is in an early-stage trial to treat Crohn’s disease.

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