Oxford BioDynamics (OBDs) has signed a collaboration agreement with Italian research and biomedical institute Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza to develop a diagnostic biomarker assay for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Under the agreement, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza will supply blood samples from both autistic subjects and healthy controls, which will then be screened at high resolution for epigenetic changes, in the form of chromosome conformational signatures, by OBD using the EpiSwitch high throughput technology platform.

As the EpiSwitch platform monitors the environmental impact on the genome, it is well placed to identify biomarkers for diagnosing ASD through minimally invasive blood sampling.

It is estimated that around 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASD, which is thought to be caused by a complex interaction of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors.

The condition is characterised by problems with social interaction and communication. While there is no cure, earlier diagnosis would allow more timely intervention, improving the results of treatment and enhancing clinical outcomes, according to OBD.

“We are looking forward to joining forces with the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza team, to develop reliable non-invasive biomarkers for ASD. We strongly believe our work will help to improve the understanding of epigenetic controls and mechanisms behind this disorder,” noted Alexandre Akoulitchev, OBD’s chief scientific officer.

“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,” he added.