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Metagenex: The end of the conflict between inventors and investors of a test for detecting cancer

Translated from LE MONDE | 14.01.10 | 14h48 • Updated 14.01.10 | 14h48

( Source paper)

For over three years, the oncologist Patrizia Paterlini-Brechot, head of a research laboratory at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and founder of the company Metagenex, fought to recover his inventions . This has now been achieved.

An agreement signed in December 2009 with the investors of her company - Axa Private Equity and Banexi Ventures Partners - and with the manager of Metagenex, David Znaty, enables her again to exploit the licenses of patents filed to protect their inventions reveals a statement issued Monday, January 11 by Collectif Interassociatif around birth (Ciane).

This case exemplifies the difficulties that may arise from the exploitation of research results. The Metagenex company, founded in 2001, aimed to commercialize blood tests to detect cancer and to perform prenatal diagnosis on a simple blood sample and thus detect fetal genetic disorders, such as trisomy 21, cystic fibrosis or spinal muscular atrophy, without risk of miscarriage, unlike current techniques by amniocentesis (for trisomy 21), leading to about 1% of miscarriages.

The founders of Metagenex agreed investors in 2006. Shortly after, a conflict against each other arose, investors wishing to market the tests, while the inventors believed that the tests were not yet fully developed and were bringing the risk of false diagnoses.

The controversy took a particular twist as the husband of Ms. Paterlini-Brechot was none other than Christian Brechot, director general of INSERM. To avoid any conflict of interest with his employer, co-owner of the patents licenced to Metagenex with the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris and Université Paris-Descartes, he resigned from his position in October 2007.

The agreement appears to meet the interests of all the actors of the conflict. Mr. Bréchot first, who has no more litigantion with the investors of Metagenex. Ms. Paterlini-Brechot then, who just created a new company, Rarecells to exploit her inventions. Following this agreement, Rarecells gets the exclusive licenses of three patents essential to valorization of the discovery and the co-license the first patent. Ms. Paterlini-Brechot will thus continue to develop tests for both prenatal diagnosis and for cancer screenings.

Conclusive tests

Some prenatal diagnostic tests have passed clinical trials of phase 3 and can be quickly placed on the market. To the satisfaction of many patient groups and in particular Ciane. As for tests for cancer screening, clinical trials will start. They will be marketed within two to three years if trials are successful. It will be possible to detect cancer cells by a simple blood test before they are visible with medical imaging systems, says Ms. Paterlini-Brechot.

"We're both winners," said the leader of Metagenex, renamed Screencells. Only the first patent, of which the company keeps the co-licensee, is necessary for his strategy: the development of blood tests, not to detect cancer but to develop personalized treatments. "These tests will monitor non-invasively, that is to say, without puncturing the evolution of the tumor, and to tailor treatment," explains Yvon Cayre, Consultant for Research and Development for Screencells.

Annie Kahn

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