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Utility Of Rubicon Genomics’ ThruPLEX-FD Kit Validated In Study Showing “Liquid Biopsy” Can Track Genomic Evolution Of Cancer In Response To Therapy

Rubicon Genomics, Inc., a leader in the development and commercialization of innovative sample-specific nucleic acid library preparation products used in research and clinical testing, recently reported that its ThruPLEXTM-FD Prep Kits contributed to the success of a breakthrough study recently published in Nature1 that showed that genomic data extracted from the plasma of cancer patients can be used to track drug resistance and potentially guide treatment.

Evidence-Guided Molecular Profiling Offers New Hope for Oncologists Managing Difficult-to-Treat Cancers

Caris Life Sciences recently announced data from two studies presented at the 2013 European Cancer Congress (ECC 2013), which demonstrate the potential of evidence-guided molecular profiling to improve the treatment of patients with hard-to-treat cancers, including cancers of unknown primary (CUP) origins as well as rare tumors and cancers that have been refractory to treatment.

University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Licensing Deals Fuel Local Life Sciences Community

University of Maryland (UM) Ventures recently announced agreements between University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and five different life sciences companies across the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan region. The companies include Montgomery County-based Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, Baltimore County-based Plasmonix, Prince Georges County-based IGI Technologies, Howard County-based A&G Pharmaceuticals, and Frederick County-based BioAssay Works. These deals are part of UM Ventures’ continual efforts to accelerate technology commercialization, advance industry collaboration, and support projects with commercial value at both the Baltimore and College Park campuses of the university.

“UMB is very excited to collaborate with these companies, each an innovator in its own right,” said Phil Robilotto, Assistant Vice President, Office of Technology Transfer, UMB. “These types of collaborations are at the core of our mission to channel the expertise of our industry partners and highlight our efforts to support the Maryland biotechnology community.”

UMB/Rexahn Exclusive License Agreement: In June 2013, UMB and Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing the next generation of cancer drugs, executed an exclusive license agreement for a novel drug delivery platform, Nano-Polymer-Drug Conjugate Systems (NPDCS), which was co-developed by researchers with the University of Maryland (UM) School of Pharmacy in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, including Assistant Professor Anjan Nan, Ph.D. Rexahn’s platform uses existing chemotherapeutic agents, delivering them directly into cancer tumors. The UMB/Rexahn collaboration began after the company and a team of UMB researchers received a Maryland
Industrial Partnership (MIPS) award. The MIPS program is aimed at technology acceleration, providing funds that are matched by Maryland companies to support university-based research.

UMB/Plasmonix License Agreement: Also in June 2013, UMB entered into a license agreement with Plasmonix for a pathogen detection technology. Plasmonix focuses on the enhancement of luminescent signals through advanced use of metal nanoparticles, applying its technology in life science and diagnostic assays. Joseph Lakowicz, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology within the UM School of Medicine, invented the licensed UMB technology. His laboratory focuses on advancement of fluorescence compositions and methods for use in both research and commercial applications.

UMB Option Agreements with IGI Technologies/A&G Pharmaceuticals: UMB also executed option agreements (giving each company the exclusive right to evaluate a university technology for a short period of time prior to executing a full license agreement) during June 2013 with IGI Technologies and A&G Pharmaceuticals, both university start-ups, although at different stages of company development. Founded by Raj Shekhar, Ph.D., and William Plishker, Ph.D., former UM School of Medicine researchers from the Department of Diagnostic Radiology, IGI Technologies is an emerging start-up developing high-speed medical image registration technology through a Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A&G Pharmaceuticals, which was founded as a UMB startup in 2007, is discovering and developing theranostics (drug/test combinations) that improve screening, detection, and treatment of cancer. The company also offers custom antibody development through its service division – Precision AntibodyTM. UMB’s option agreement with A&G Pharmaceuticals is to explore the potential for the company’s development of a new cancer diagnostic test based on the tissue biomarker research of lead inventor Yun Qiu, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology, UM School of Medicine.

UMB/BioAssay Works Commercial Evaluation and Option Agreement: In September 2012, UMB entered into a commercial evaluation and option agreement with BioAssay Works to evaluate a Staph aureus diagnostic technology based on the work of lead inventor, Mark E. Shirtliff, Associate Professor, Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, with a dual appointment in UM Schools of Dentistry and Medicine. Dr. Shirtliff studies bacterial biofilms, a mode of growth where pathogens such as Staph aureus become resistant to conventional therapy. He was
awarded the 2013 BioMaryland LIFE Prize for his promising Staph vaccine work. BioAssay Works focuses on antibody-based and antigen-based detection technologies, and on their application in lateral-flow immunoassay. The partnership between BioAssay Works and UMB may lead to the development of a rapid and sensitive test for Staph, in particular the treatment-resistant type (“MRSA”).

Since UM Ventures launched in 2012, the University has helped faculty entrepreneurs manage and commercialize their discoveries, and has helped student entrepreneurs participate in and lead real-world early-stage business ventures. UMB and UMCP startups include a wide range of success stories. UM Ventures provides resources, funding, and expertise to help startups bring innovative technologies to the market.

Source: University of Maryland

Unexpected Synergy Between Two Cancer-linked Proteins Offers Hope for Personalised Cancer Therapy

A team of scientists led by Associate Professor Zeng Qi from A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have discovered a new biomarker which will help physicians predict how well cancer patients respond to cancer drugs. Having the means to identify patients who are most likely to benefit from currently available cancer drugs not only reduces substantially the healthcare cost for the patient, it could mean saving precious lives by getting the right drugs to the right patient at the onset of the treatment. This study published and featured on August cover of the Journal of Clinical Investigation will boost the development of personalised medicine in cancer care and therapy.

Metastasis is the rapid and uncontrollable spread of cancer cells from the primary tumour to other parts of the body. It is often the leading cause of death in cancer patients. Increasingly, there is evidence to show that in many cancers that have metastasised, a protein called PRL-3 is often found to be present at unusually high levels. Since it was first identified in 1998 by Associate Professor Zeng, several other research groups have found evidence to support the strong link between elevated levels of PRL-3 protein and the metastasis of aggressive cancers in the lung, liver, colon and breast. This cancer-promoting action of PRL-3 makes it an ideal target for cancer diagnostics and treatment.

In this study, the IMCB team discovered a curious synergy between PRL-3 and EGFR, another well-known cancer-linked protein frequently associated with breast and lung cancers in humans. They found that cancer cells with higher levels of PRL-3 not only hyperactivate EGFR, but also develop an ‘addiction’ for it to survive. Consequently, by suppressing EGFR activity with EGFR inhibitor drugs, the scientists observed that cancer cells with higher levels of PRL-3 were more rapidly destroyed. To validate these findings in humans, the team collaborated with Associate Professor Wee Joo Chng from the National University Health System to run an analysis on pre-existing clinical data of colorectal cancer patients. The results confirmed that patients who respond better to EGFR inhibitor drugs were those suffering from cancers with abnormally high levels of PRL-3.

Associate Professor Zeng said, “This unexpected synergy has revealed a vulnerable spot of aggressive cancers and brought new hope of treating PRL-3 driven cancers successfully. The addiction phenomenon we observed in cancer cells is akin to depriving alcohol from an alcoholic, thereby inducing the severe ‘withdrawal effects’. In the same way, by selecting cancer patients with elevated levels of PRL-3 and greater ‘addiction’ of EGFR for anti-EGFR treatment, we can deliver more effective and targeted cancer therapy with the existing EGFR inhibitor cancer drugs.”

Professor Sir David Lane, Chief Scientist of A*STAR said, “This is an excellent example of how years of basic research lay the foundation for advancement in translational and clinical applications. I am pleased that the team is exploring the potentials of developing this new predictive biomarker into a rapid diagnostic kit for identifying patients who will respond favourably to current anti-EGFR treatment. I believe that this study will open new avenues for personalised medicine in cancer therapy.”

Study: Metastasis-associated PRL-3 induces EGFR activation and addiction in cancer cells [Journal of Clinical Investigation]

Source: Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

Development of New Technologies Spurs Molecular Diagnostic Test Volumes in Asia-Pacific, Finds Frost & Sullivan

The Asia-Pacific molecular diagnostics market is poised for rapid growth owing to the high prevalence of diseases, increase in the aged population, economic development, and the rising need for better healthcare services. Although several challenges related to cost, regulations and reimbursement policies exist, the market offers immense opportunities for molecular diagnostics vendors.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (http://www.lifesciences.frost.com), Analysis of the Asia-Pacific Molecular Diagnostics Market, finds that the market earned revenues of more than US$846.5 million in 2012 and estimates this to reach US$2,528.1 million in 2019.

Public awareness on new, cutting-edge technologies and preventive medicine is increasing in several Asia-Pacific countries. Recognition that molecular diagnostics tests are more accurate, cost-effective, and short turnaround time compare to conventional diagnostics has spurred market growth.

“Newer, automated technologies such as microarrays, Real time PCR technology, mass spectrometric proteomic analyses and protein chips have transformed the way physicians detect and diagnose cancers and genetic diseases at an early stage,” said Frost & Sullivan Healthcare Industry Analyst Gulifeiya Abuduxike. “This has also paved the way for personalized medicine, which can identify the predisposition of a patient to a disease based on genetic variants, and target therapy at the right time.”

While these advanced, automated and integrated technologies widen the application scope of molecular diagnostics, they also lead to high test costs, which a huge section of patients in Asia-Pacific are unable to afford.

The lack of healthcare insurance and reimbursement schemes for diagnostics, usually not considered as important as drugs, further limits adoption in the region. The shortage of skilled technicians and insufficient infrastructure adds to the challenge.

Therefore, clinicians and patients must be educated on the medical value and benefit of molecular diagnostics as well as the need for early detection and preventive medicine. Governments need to establish reimbursements for molecular tests to boost test volumes as well as to reduce the treatment costs.

“Expanding testing menus and application areas, as well as developing automated instruments through research and development are also crucial,” noted Gulifeiya. “Molecular diagnostic companies must look to enhance the accuracy of test results and reduce time consumption.”

As focus shifts to oncology testing, pharmacogenomics and the co-development of companion diagnostics will be key business strategies for Asia-Pacific pharmaceutical companies to maximize the cost-effectiveness of cancer drugs.

If you are interested in more information on this research, please send an e-mail to Donna Jeremiah, Corporate Communications, at djeremiah@frost.com, with your full name, company name, job title, telephone number, company e-mail address, company website, city, state and country.

Analysis of the Asia-Pacific Molecular Diagnostics Market is part of the Life Sciences Growth Partnership Service program. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

Source: Frost & Sullivan