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Protagen AG Join Forces with the U.S. National Cancer Institute to Answer Pressing Questions in Immuno-Oncology

Protagen AG has executed a Material Transfer Agreement with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) under which the parties will utilize Protagen’s SeroTag® immune system profiling technology to identify biomarkers that predict therapy responsiveness, to monitor patients receiving immunotherapies, and for early detection of immune-related adverse events (irAEs). This collaboration with NCI will be led by Jeffrey Schlom, Ph.D., Chief of the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology at the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. Protagen AG is a provider of pharma development services and novel companion diagnostic tests in the fields of immuno-oncology and autoimmune disease. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Lilly and BioNTech Announce Research Collaboration on Novel Cancer Immunotherapies

Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) and BioNTech AG recently announced they have entered into a research collaboration to discover novel cancer immunotherapies. The companies will seek to use the power of the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells and create possible new treatment options for cancer patients.

Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. and MedImmune Collaborate to Develop a Custom PD-L1 Assay for Immunotherapy Clinical Trials

Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. (Ventana), a member of the Roche Group and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, recently announced they are jointly developing a PD-L1 (SP263) immunohistochemistry assay to enroll patients in clinical trials for MedImmune’s MEDI4736 anti-PD-L1 therapy for non-small cell lung carcinoma. This includes the recently commenced MEDI4736 ATLANTIC trial that will enroll only patients who express PD-L1 as determined by the VENTANA assay.

Myriad RBM Test Helping to Mine Secrets of Normal Immune System

Scientists have long known that an abnormal immune system can help cause diseases such as asthma and Type 1 diabetes. But to understand what makes an immune system abnormal, it’s important to know exactly what a normal immune system looks like. Oddly enough, few large-scale studies have been done to explore the immune systems of healthy people to see how much they can differ from each other and still be considered in the normal range.

Ruggles Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr. Make $1.25M Donation to J. Craig Venter Institute for New Study to Identify and Elucidate Healthy Aging Biomarkers

The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, recently announced that the Ruggles Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr. have made a $1.25 million donation to JCVI to identify and study biomarkers associated with healthy aging. As part of the four year grant, JCVI will collaborate with the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN), located in Danbury, CT.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists and clinicians from JCVI and WCHN, will focus on two groups of elderly individuals aged 65 to 85 years by correlating genetics with a variety of human genomic, gut microbiome and other “omics” profiles and integrating these data with the individuals’ health record. One group will consist of healthy individuals, and the other will have individuals with a variety of diagnosed health conditions. The team will then compare the microbiome and molecular profiles of the healthy aging group with those of the non-healthy aging group to identify biomarker candidates. The investigators hope that in the future these data can be used to develop cost-effective, clinically relevant tests.

“As traditional modes of funding for science become less and less plentiful, the need for informed and supportive philanthropic donors is more important than ever. We are grateful for the support of Rudy and Sara and the Ruggles Family Foundation as this will enable us to better understand what healthy aging looks like at the genomic level,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., JCVI Founder and CEO.

“The time is right for pursuing the complex question of healthy aging given the rapid advances in analytical technologies and the expanding knowledge of the human genome and microbiome and their interactions. JCVI’s capabilities in this realm are unparalleled, and I am confident that this ground breaking study will expand materially the horizons of this area of fundamental understanding,” said Rudy Ruggles, a physicist and Adjunct Professor at JCVI, who is a healthy 74 years old and a participant in this study. He is also Chairman of the Research Advisory Council of WCHN’s Biomedical Research Institute.

According to a United Nations report, in 1950 there were 205 million people worldwide aged 60 or older. By 2000 there were 606 million aged 60 or older, and they project that by 2050 this figure will reach nearly 2 billion people who are 60 or older. Understanding the elderly patient and figuring out modes of intervention to better prevent and treat disease associated with aging will continue to be an important area of research.

In addition to more comprehensively studied human genetic factors, other areas of human health and biology that influence and define healthy aging in humans are emerging. For example, a healthy microbiome (the full complement of microbes that live on and in the human body) interacts with the human immune system establishing protective activities when necessary. Low-grade chronic inflammation in humans is a risk factor for the development of more serious diseases that reduce life spans. New tools and technologies developed since the first sequencing of the human and other genomes are now allowing researchers to explore the human body in more detail than ever before, including identifying biological signatures (biomarkers) indicative and even predictive of healthy aging.

According to JCVI President Karen Nelson, Ph.D., “JCVI’s extensive knowledge in human genomics, comparative genomics and the human microbiome, coupled with the clinical expertise of WCHN, should result in new insights into healthy aging. We are excited to add this new study to our repertoire of ongoing human microbiome studies as it will enhance our knowledge in this important area of research.”

For more information on how to support the genomics research programs at JCVI, contact Katie Collins, 858-200-1847.

Source: The J. Craig Venter Institute