Homocysteine testing - new developments

Published: 8 October 2002

Axis-Shield to have exclusive rights to University patent

The University of Glasgow today announced that it has concluded an agreement with Axis Shield giving the company exclusive rights to the University's patent covering enzymatic measurement of homocysteine levels.

The use of homocysteine testing is becoming increasingly recognised as studies are published confirming its role as a predictor of cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's. It is hoped that the measurement of homocysteine levels will be a key aid in attempts to reduce the burden of heart disease in Scotland and worldwide.

Professor Peter Holmes, Senior Vice-Principal for the University of Glasgow commented, 'This deal with Axis is another excellent example of how Glasgow University technology can be successfully transferred to an innovative company in the growing Scottish biotech sector. We are delighted that our work with Axis has had such an impact and we look forward to the future.'

Axis-Shield CEO Svein Lien continued, 'We have been working with the University for some time and with this new agreement, which gives us the rights to use this technology, we expect the homocysteine market to continue to grow. '

The background to the invention and establishment of the homocysteine test by Professors Coombs and Mottram is, in itself, interesting. The idea and prototype test arose as a spinout of work that was totally unrelated to heart disease or Alzheimer's disease. Indeed the investigations being done were fundamental studies on parasites that cause human disease, aimed at providing data that would underpin novel drug development.

The scientists came up with the idea that one unusual enzyme under investigation could be useful in ways entirely different from their ongoing studies. They set about studying whether their ideas could be made to work and, in time with support of the University's Innovation Fund, they produced evidence that indeed the enzyme could be used to measure the levels of homocysteine.

The University of Glasgow realised the possibilities offered by the invention and understood that, to maximise its potential, an effective test needed to be produced for use by hospitals and general practitioners. To facilitate this, it was necessary to find a partner company with experience in developing diagnostic tests.

Fortunately, a Scottish company based in Dundee, Shield Diagnostics (now Axis-Shield), had the expertise required. The company was approached and an agreement was reached that they would produce the test and make it available for use throughout the world. Subsequent development of the test has been a joint venture between Glasgow University and Axis-Shield.

It is clear that useful applications frequently come out of basic research, often in totally unpredictable ways. No one, including the inventors themselves, foresaw that their studies on the molecular genetics and biochemistry of parasites would have relevance to the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Media Relations Office (media@gla.ac.uk)

Axis-Shield (Axis Shield )is an international in vitro diagnostics company headquartered in Dundee with R&D and manufacturing bases in Dundee and Oslo.

The Group specialises in the development, manufacture and marketing of innovative proprietary diagnostics kits for autoimmune and infectious diseases, cardiovascular risk assessment, neurodegenerative diseases, alcohol abuse and diabetes.


University of Glasgow Alasdair Street, Research and Enterprise Tel: 44 141 330 2623

Judith Hodgson, Press Office Tel: 44 141 330 3535

Axis-Shield plc George Zajicek, Business Development Director Tel: +44 1382 422000

First published: 8 October 2002

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