April 7, 2004.
Interleukin Genetics, Inc. (OTCBB:ILGN) reported today that it was awarded Patent No. 6,713,253 B1 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a method that uses specific genetic markers to identify those persons with diabetes who are at an increased risk of sight-threatening retinopathy. Studies conducted by Interleukin Genetics have demonstrated that certain variations (SNPs) in the IL-1 genes produce lifelong tendencies to have more inflammation or qualitative differences in inflammation mechanisms.
The new patent is based on the discovery that individuals with diabetes who have certain common variations in the IL-1 genes have an increased risk for diabetic retinopathy and an increased risk of blindness. "Although all individuals with diabetes should be carefully controlled and monitored for complications," said Philip R. Reilly, MD, JD, Chief Executive Officer of Interleukin Genetics, "some cases progress to severe complications, such as retinopathy, more rapidly than others. By identifying which people are on a more rapid path to complications, patient-monitoring schedules may be adjusted and additional preventive measures may be applied in a manner that reduces the likelihood of serious complications. In addition, these insights now provide new targets for development of drugs to better manage the risk in persons with diabetes who have these gene variations."
Chronic inflammation is now a well-recognized risk factor in the development of diabetes mellitus and its complications. Diabetes is now estimated to affect over 18 million Americans. One of the most common complications of diabetes is a progressive eye disorder referred to as diabetic retinopathy that can lead to blindness.
"Diabetic retinopathy is a common and much feared complication of diabetes," said Alan Moses, MD, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director of Joslin Diabetes Center and a former consultant to the company. "While there is a clear correlation between mean blood glucose and the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy for the population of patients with diabetes, risk at the individual patient level remains difficult to predict. Genetic tools such as the interleukin gene family polymorphisms developed by Interleukin Genetics will help to identify patients at high or low risk for diabetic retinopathy. As medications are approved to prevent or treat this complication, these tests will allow more informed choices about which patients to treat. Thus, these tools represent another step in developing a better understanding of diabetes complications and how to prevent them."
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in individuals 20 to 74 years of age. Each year, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 people lose their sight due to the devastating effects of diabetic retinopathy, which, along with other related diabetes complications, costs the healthcare system nearly $92 billion (current estimate is over $100 billion) annually. Although clinical procedures are available that can prevent blindness in these individuals, it is critical to intervene early, before the damage is done.
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