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Israeli and U.S. firms to cooperate on developing biomarkers for human depression

BIRD foundation to provide $900,000 for joint project by Ciphergen and Mindsense

The Bi-national Industrial Research and Development fund for Israel and The United States is providing $900,000 for a joint research project by Rehovot-based

Mindsense Biosystems

and Fremont, California-based

Ciphergen Biosystems

(Nasdaq:CIPH).

The two companies will work together to find biomarkers, biological elements whose presence in the blood system or body fluids can indicate disease or a condition such as mental illness. The research aims to develop a quantifiable method to monitor and diagnose people suffering from conditions such as major depression.

The

BIRD

funding will be divided equally between the two companies. According to fund manager Dov Hershberg, the funding decision was taken following a report written by the United States National Institution for Standards and Technology, and based on the recommendation by the office of the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade.

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The development of biochemical tools to diagnose depression will dramatically improve clinical treatment of the condition, said Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and chairman of Mindsense Scientific Advisory Board. Moreover, he says, the ability to monitor the condition of treated individuals on antidepressant will advance too.

Mindsense and Ciphergen are pioneers in protein analysis of biomarkers for patients of emotional and mental disorder, Schatzberg said. He said that Mindsense brings advanced understanding of the biology of psychiatric disease, while Ciphergen's contributes the recognition of biomarkers.

Ciphergen's ProteinChip System recognizes proteins and helps elucidate their functions. Deeper understanding of the proteins' behavior can facilitate diagnosis of disease and monitoring the efficacy of treatment.

Mindsense was founded in 1996. Among its shareholders are the Comsor fund, owned by Comverse and George Soros, the Disney-controlled investment company

Shamrock Holdings

of California,

AG-Tech fund

, the Israeli fund Meizam, and several private investors. Its founders are Joav Avtalion, among the co-founders of

Nice Systems

(Nasdaq:NICE), and Lea Korner.