UK-based biotechnology company Oxford BioDynamics has collaborated with Italian research and biomedical institution Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza to identify biomarkers related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The alliance will use Oxford BioDynamics’ EpiSwitch high-throughput technology to develop a biomarker assay for the blood-based diagnosis of the neurodevelopmental condition.

EpiSwitch is designed to enable the discovery, evaluation, validation and monitoring of a new type of epigenetic biomarkers called chromosome conformation signatures (CCSs).

According to the agreement, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza will supply blood samples from autistic patients, as well as healthy controls. The EpiSwitch technology will then be used to screen these samples for epigenetic changes in the form of CCSs.

“We strongly believe our work will help to improve the understanding of epigenetic controls and mechanisms behind this disorder.”

Oxford BioDynamics expects the findings to expand the epigenetic knowledge base for autism in order to help future research and pharmaceutical development into associated disorders.

Oxford BioDynamics chief scientific officer Alexandre Akoulitchev said: “We strongly believe our work will help to improve the understanding of epigenetic controls and mechanisms behind this disorder.

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“This agreement further demonstrates rising interest in our proprietary technology, EpiSwitch, which offers results of unique value and clinical utility in biomarker discovery and disease understanding for a broad spectrum of complex indications, from immune-oncology and autoimmune conditions, to neurodegeneration, psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions.”

The alliance with Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza follows Oxford BioDynamics’ collaboration agreement with an undisclosed US biopharmaceutical company to develop predictive biomarkers for immuno-oncology (IO) therapeutics.

As part of this deal, EpiSwitch will be utilised to map epigenetic profiles in patients. This is intended to facilitate linking between epigenetic risks and clinical benefit of a treatment.