- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rockville biotechnology company 20/20 GeneSystems Inc. recently bought the research rights from the University of Kentucky to develop an early lung cancer screening test.

The company, which specializes in detection testing for biological agents, cancers and autoimmune diseases, said last week it paid an undisclosed amount for the exclusive rights to the university’s findings.

The university’s researchers identified antibodies that are created by the body’s immune system in response to the early stages of lung cancer. Those antibodies had an 80 percent accuracy rate of predicting lung cancers, said 20/20 GeneSystems President and Chief Executive Jonathan Cohen.

“The goal now is to create a simple blood test that can identify lung cancer in patients years before its shows up in symptoms,” Mr. Cohen said.

While the company has no timetable, Mr. Cohen said it expects to start clinical trials for the blood test in the first half of next year.

The blood test, which must receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration before it can be sold as a kit for diagnostic purposes, could detect “non-small” cell lung cancer, which accounts for 75 percent of all lung cancers, up to four years earlier than the latest technology, Mr. Cohen said.

Doctors currently use spiral computed tomography scans and standard chest X-rays to find lung cancer early, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Health reports go satellite

The Kaiser Family Foundation this week announced a partnership with D.C. satellite radio company XM Satellite Radio to provide health care reports.

The Menlo Park, Calif., health-policy organization, earlier this month started producing minute-long segments for XM’s news and talk-show stations, which reach more than 5 million subscribers.

Kaiser spokesman Larry Levitt said the group waited to announce the partnership because of scheduling conflicts.

Kaiser will produce the segments in the broadcast studio of its D.C. office five times a week, with topics ranging from the upcoming Medicare drug benefit to the high costs of health insurance, Mr. Levitt said.

Schools warned of soda suits

About 100 school board members and groups this week received warning e-mails, threatening class-action lawsuits for schools that continue to sell soft drinks to students.

The e-mails, which were sent by George Washington University Law School professor and anti-obesity litigator John Banzhaf III, pressured local school boards to follow soda bans that have been instituted in Los Angeles and New York.

The warnings are “just suggesting they be aware of what is coming,” said Mr. Banzhaf, who in 2003 pressured Seattle’s school board to drop a contract with Coca-Cola Co.

The warnings come as advocacy groups are planning to file class-action lawsuits against the soda industry, which are said to start next month in Massachusetts.

One of the groups, the Public Health Advocacy Institute in Boston, said there was no set time or location for the filings.

Health Care runs on Fridays. Call 202/636-4892 or e-mail mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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