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Phylonix Granted U.S. Patent for High Throughput Drug Screening Using Zebrafish

Cambridge, MA (March 30, 2004) – Phylonix today announced the recent award of Patent No. 6,656,449 “Methods of Screening Agents for Activity Using Teleosts” by the United States Patent and Trademark Office which includes claims for performing drug screening on zebrafish using microtiter plates. This high throughput format permits development of quantitative in vivo bioassays, which is not possible with other vertebrate animal models. Other key claims also include performing drug screening for toxicity, apoptosis, and angiogenesis using zebrafish.

“This is important recognition of our pioneering efforts to develop both visual and quantitative methods for drug screening, target identification, and target validation using zebrafish as a model organism,” said Patricia McGrath, President & CEO. Corresponding patent applications for this subject matter have been filed in major international markets, including Europe and Asia.

Laboratory animals are critical for defining the mechanisms of drug activity and for testing therapeutic regimens, however, only a few useful models have been developed. Zebrafish has several important advantages for drug screening: they are small, inexpensive to maintain and easily bred in large numbers. Eggs are externally fertilized and a single mating produces 100-200 eggs. Single embryos can be maintained in fluid volumes as small as 100 microliters for the first six days of development and cultured in microtiter wells. Chemicals can then be added directly to the fish water, permeating the intact embryo. Microliters of drug are required for zebrafish compared with milliliters per mouse. Standard microtiter plate readers can be used for measurement, making this format particularly attractive for high throughput drug screening.

Conventional cell-based assays evaluate the potential effects of drugs in culture, but cannot assess the complex metabolism that affects actual drug efficacy or causes toxicity in animals and humans. Therefore, many drugs that appear effective in cell-based assays fail in subsequent, costly animal testing. To streamline the drug development time-line, prioritize drug candidates for animal testing, and reduce unnecessary costs for mammalian studies, we are developing a family of drug screening assays using the small vertebrate zebrafish. This convenient animal model will serve as an intermediate step between cell-based evaluation and animal testing for drug evaluation.

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