Hebrew University and Aurum Ventures Team to Create a Diagnostic Blood Test for RRMS

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Yissum Research Development Company, an arm of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has entered into an agreement with Aurum Ventures MKI to develop a diagnostic blood test for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and a range of other diseases, which uses differences in DNA from dying cells found in the blood of sick individuals. DNA molecules are methylated to control the expression of specific genes, and specific methylation patterns exist in various tissues.

Researchers at the Hebrew University recently discovered that when cells start dying, the DNA is released and circulates in the bloodstream. By scanning hundreds of patients with various diseases, as well as healthy control individuals, they were able to identify methylation patterns that are specific for a number of conditions, including RRMS. The team proved the accuracy of the method by correctly identifying a range of disorders, including RRMS, type 1 diabetes, traumatic or ischemic brain damage, and pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.

The findings recently appeared in the journal PNAS, in the article Identification of tissue specific cell death using methylation patterns of circulating DNA, and is being presented at the IATI-BioMed 2016 Conference  taking place through May 26 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“The novel technology represents an exciting approach that opens up vast possibilities in diagnostic medicine,” Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, which received a $1.2 million investment from Aurum, said in a press release. “The capital received from Aurum Ventures will be used for the development of a diagnostic tool for selected diseases, with a first priority to neurodegenerative, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, as well as for developing the invention into a novel blood test for the early detection of multiple diseases at their asymptomatic stage.”

Yissum is a technology transfer firm protecting and developing inventions from the Hebrew University, now focusing on the new blood test created by Dr. Ruth Shemer and Professor Yuval Dor, and their teams at the university.

“Professor Dor and his team have developed a completely novel approach to early diagnosis of a variety of medical conditions that will enable detection of these diseases long before clinical signs of disease become evident,” said Dr. Dan J. Gelvan, managing director of Life Science at Aurum Ventures — the technology investment arm of Israeli billionaire and entrepreneur Morris Kahn. “This development is likely to become focal in future medicine and we are honored to have been offered the opportunity to join this path-breaking project.”