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Big Pharma Joins NIH’s Cancer Moonshot for a Biomarker Hunt

Eleven drug companies are joining forces with the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Cancer Moonshot to expedite the discovery of cancer immunotherapy biomarkers, molecular bar codes that help doctors know how to treat a tumor and gauge how well a person responds to a drug.

QIAGEN Signs Ninth Master Collaboration Agreement for Companion Diagnostics

QIAGEN N.V. (NASDAQ: QGEN; Frankfurt Prime Standard: QIA) recently announced it has entered into a master collaboration agreement with the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG to enable the development and commercialization of companion diagnostics to be paired with existing Novartis pharmaceutical products as well as compounds in its development pipeline.

Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics to Rise on Penn Medicine Campus

The University of Pennsylvania recently reached an important milestone in its alliance with Novartis as it unveiled plans for the construction of a first-of-its-kind Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics (CACT) on the Penn Medicine campus in Philadelphia. The CACT will become the epicenter for research using Chimeric Antigen Receptor technology (CAR), which enables a patient’s T cells to be reprogrammed outside of the body so when they are re-infused into the patient, the T cells have the ability to “hunt” and destroy the cancer cells. Clinical trials using this approach have made headlines around the world.

Experimental Therapeutics Centre and Debiopharm Group to Collaborate for the Development of an Epigenetic Innovative Oncology Target

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)’s Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC), a center of excellence to advance and accelerate drug discovery in Singapore, and Debiopharm Group™ (Debiopharm), the Swiss-based global biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the development of prescription drugs that target unmet medical needs including oncology as well as companion diagnostics, recently announced the signature of an exclusive research collaboration to develop oral small molecules targeting new class of epigenetic modulators.

Under the terms of the agreement, Debiopharm and ETC will co-finance the discovery phase of the project, whilst Debiopharm will be in charge of development.

Mayo Clinic Study: Blood Biomarker Could Mark Severe Cognitive Decline, Quicker Progression Among Parkinson’s Patients

A genetic mutation, known as GBA, that leads to early onset of Parkinson’s disease and severe cognitive impairment (in about 4 to 7 percent of all patients with the disease) also alters how specific lipids, ceramides and glucosylceramides are metabolized. Mayo Clinic researchers have found that Parkinson’s patients who do not carry the genetic mutation also have higher levels of these lipids in the blood. Further, those who had Parkinson’s and high blood levels were also more likely to have cognitive impairment and dementia. The research was recently published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

The discovery could be an important warning for those with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. There is no biomarker to tell who is going to develop the disease — and who is going to develop cognitive impairment after developing Parkinson’s, says Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic researcher and first author of the study.

Cognitive impairment is a frequent symptom in Parkinson’s disease and can be even more debilitating for patients and their caregivers than the characteristic motor symptoms. The early identification of Parkinson’s patients at greatest risk of developing dementia is important for preventing or delaying the onset and progression of cognitive symptoms. Changing these blood lipids could be a way to stop the progression of the disease, says Dr. Mielke.

There is a suggestion this blood lipid marker also could help to predict who will develop Parkinson’s disease and this research is ongoing.

“There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, but the earlier we catch it — the better chance we have to fight it,” says Dr. Mielke. “It’s particularly important we find a biomarker and identify it in the preclinical phase of the disease, before the onset even begins.”

Dr. Mielke’s lab is researching blood-based biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease because blood tests are less invasive and cheaper than a brain scan or spinal tap — other tools used to research the disease.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging (U01 AG37526) and from George P. Mitchell and the late Cynthia W. Mitchell. The DEMPARK study was being funded by an unrestricted grant from Novartis and a grant from the International Parkinson Fonds (Deutschland) gGmbH (IPD). The continuation of the study (LANDSCAPE) is part of the Competence Network Degenerative Dementias (KNDD), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (project number 01GI1008C)).

Study: Plasma Ceramide and Glucosylceramide Metabolism Is Altered in Sporadic Parkinson’s Disease and Associated with Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Study [PLOS ONE]

Source: Mayo Clinic