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Broad Institute and Bayer Join Forces to Develop Novel Treatment Options in Cancer Therapy

The Broad Institute has entered into a strategic alliance with Bayer Healthcare in the area of oncogenomics and drug discovery. The goal of this collaboration is to jointly discover and develop therapeutic agents that selectively target cancer genome alterations over a period of five years.

“We look forward to working together with our Bayer colleagues to translate scientific discoveries into novel cancer therapeutics,” said Professor Eric Lander, President and Director of Broad Institute. “The Broad’s deep expertise and knowledge in cancer genomics, chemical biology and drug discovery perfectly complement Bayer’s decades of experience in pharmaceutical development. We are thrilled to be working with Bayer in such a visionary collaboration.”

Oncogenomics is a promising field of oncology research that identifies and characterizes genes which are associated with cancer. Cancer is caused by the accumulation of DNA mutations which lead to uncontrolled cell proliferation and tumor formation. The goal of oncogenomics research is to identify new genes which, when mutated, stimulate or lose the ability to suppress tumor cell growth. These genes may provide new insights into cancer diagnosis, prediction of clinical outcomes, and new targets for cancer therapies. Targeting individual patient tumor mutations will allow for the development of more personalized cancer treatments.

“We are excited to collaborate with such a prestigious research institute as the Broad Institute which brings together researchers from Harvard, MIT, and the Harvard hospitals,” said Professor Andreas Busch, Head of Global Drug Discovery and Member of the Executive Committee of Bayer HealthCare. “The Broad Institute’s scientists have created impressive systematic catalogues of mutational changes across different types of tumors, laying a foundation for the development of new cancer therapies and diagnostics. The alliance is another significant step underlining our engagement in the field of oncology and personalized medicine.”

As part of the collaboration, the Broad Institute will share its oncogenomic expertise. Both parties will explore their compound libraries and use their screening platforms as well as medicinal chemistry expertise to benefit joint projects. The collaboration will be based on joint decision-making and the rights to the research findings are shared equally between the partners. Joint research and joint steering committees will be established for the initiation and selection of projects, and as governance structures. Bayer will have an option for an exclusive license for therapeutic agents at preclinical development stage. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Source: Broad Institute

Cenix BioScience and Debiopharm Group Collaborate to Identify Predictive Biomarkers

Cenix BioScience, a leading preclinical contract research provider and technology developer specialized in RNAi-, miRNA- and high content-driven pharmacology, and Debiopharm Group™ (Debiopharm), a Swiss-based global biopharmaceutical group of companies with a focus on the development of prescription drugs that target unmet medical needs, including oncology and companion diagnostics, recently announced that they have signed a research agreement to support Debiopharm in its ongoing efforts to develop novel therapeutic drug candidates.

Under the research framework’s first project, Cenix will apply its leading expertise in combining high throughput screening with high content assays in cultured human cells, to identify predictive biomarkers for Debiopharm preclinical oncology candidates. Multi-parametric microscopy-based readouts established by Cenix using the Definiens XD image analysis platform will be used in a range of human cancer cell models to identify genes and pathways that either enhance or suppress the drug’s therapeutic effects. As such, the study represents another important illustration of Debiopharm’s ongoing drive to integrate cutting edge technologies and powerful post-genomic strategies towards further refining its personalized medicine approach towards the development of new therapeutics.

“We very excited to launch this new relationship with Debiopharm, extending their repertoire with what we consider to be some of the most strategically powerful cell-based screening paradigms developed to date,” said Dr. Christophe Echeverri, CEO/CSO of Cenix BioScience. “We deeply appreciate and are particularly gratified by this implied trust from yet another world-class and forward-leaning drug development organization, who also happens to be a long-standing expert in R&D outsourcing”.

“We look forward to working with Cenix, whose specialist expertise, longstanding leadership and unrivaled track record in this field made them an ideal partner,” commented Dr. Hiroaki Tanaka, Director of Personalized Medicine, Debiopharm. “The opportunity to benefit from such depth of knowledge, experience and extensively validated capabilities is considered as the most strategically important resource for preclinical biomarkers discovery”.

Source: Cenix BioScience

Biomarker Predicts Organ Rejection and Death in Heart Transplant Patients

Critical Diagnostics announced recently the recently-published results of a Utah Transplantation Affiliated Hospitals Cardiac Transplant Program study involving the use of a novel biomarker, ST2, to monitor heart transplant patients for rejection. Subjects with the highest levels of ST2 had a more than 3-fold increase in the risk for death than those with the lowest ST2 levels. Moreover, this risk was present early and sustained from the time of initial blood draw to many years forward.

Just over 45 years ago, on December 3, 1967, Dr. Christian Barnhard transplanted the first human heart into 53-year old Lewis Washkansky, a South African grocer dying of chronic heart disease. After his surgery, Washkansky was given drugs to suppress his immune system, but they also left him vulnerable to deadly infections. He died 18 days later from double pneumonia.

Medicine has come a long way since then. Worldwide, over 3,500 heart transplants are performed annually, more than half in the U.S. Post-transplant survival rates now average 15 years, yet rejection and death are still all too common.

Currently, biopsy-driven diagnoses are used to predict transplant organ rejection, but this type of procedure is costly, involves risk, and offers little consideration of the underlying biological processes that predict the presence or severity of rejection and/or likelihood of adverse consequences.

In the ST2 study (“Interleukin receptor family member ST2 concentrations in patients following heart transplantation”), a total of 241 transplant patients were followed for a period of just over 7 years, during which time there were 62 deaths, or some 25 percent. The prognostic ability of ST2 was examined for both rejection and death. ST2 concentrations were measured approximately a month after transplantation and found to be highly predictive of short-, intermediate-, and longer-term outcomes.

“A monitoring strategy for the rejection that directly relates to its underlying pathophysiology would be an attractive choice,” notes the study authors. “Biomarkers reflective of rejection are an option . . . a novel biomarker candidate worthy of consideration for this application is ST2.”

Study: Interleukin receptor family member ST2 concentrations in patients following heart transplantation.

Source: Critical Diagnostics

Orion Bionetworks: Developing Predictive Models to Power the Search for Cures

Today we announce the launch of Orion Bionetworks, a multi-institution cooperative non-profit alliance that is unlocking the power of shared data and predictive modeling to help transform our understanding of diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and accelerate the search for cures. Alliance partners include leading organizations in patient care, computational modeling, translational research, and patient advocacy: Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, the Institute for Neurosciences at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, GNS Healthcare, MetaCell, and PatientsLikeMe. Janssen Research & Development, LLC, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, has provided a $5.4 million scientific sponsorship as part of its Healthy Minds program for the initial phase of this effort.

Orion Bionetworks has been established as a program of the Marin Community Foundation. Its President & CEO, Thomas Peters, Ph.D., hailed the formation of the new alliance. “We are enormously proud to welcome Orion Bionetworks within the Foundation,” said Peters. “We are confident that this blend of expertise and creativity will lead to significant scientific success.”

Key supporting partners include One Mind for Research, Morrison & Foerster, Recombinant Data, and Weber Shandwick.

A Unique Cooperative Alliance

Through Orion Bionetworks, alliance partners contribute to a communal body of knowledge in the pursuit of better disease understanding, prevention and treatment, and gain access to state-of-the-art analytical tools, technologies and inter-disciplinary expertise.

Initially, Orion Bionetworks will focus on integrating clinical, biomarker and imaging data with rich real-world patient data from existing, independent databases of over 7,000 people with MS into a causal computational disease model.

PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood said, “This silo-breaking initiative allows data from disparate sources, including our patient network of thousands of individuals who monitor their health and share their MS symptom and treatment information, to be analyzed in a way that will transform future discoveries and maximize the benefit for all.”

Computational Modeling

Computational modeling, or biosimulation, is an emerging research platform that has the potential to transform our understanding of human biology and predict which individual or environmental factors influence the development and progression of disease. Application of sophisticated modeling and simulation technologies for drug discovery and development could help the healthcare industry overcome the current economic and product pipeline challenges it faces in a number of therapeutic areas including neuroscience.

Orion Bionetworks is creating a framework to advance causal disease models by supporting the creation of new computational tools and communities and facilitating their access to integrated, large-scale, diverse biological and clinical data from registries and repositories.

“By bringing together this multidisciplinary group of collaborators and enabling the sharing of integrated clinical and ‘omics data, Orion Bionetworks could help realize the promise of computational modeling in disease research,” said Iya Khalil, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of GNS Healthcare, one of the alliance members. “Causal models learned directly from data will help us understand the biology of the disease and predict which approach to treatment will work for individual patients. This could accelerate the search for cures.”

Advancing Understanding of Multiple Sclerosis

Orion Bionetworks’ initial focus is multiple sclerosis. MS affects over 2.5 million individuals worldwide. It is an exceedingly complex spectrum of diseases that involves both acute inflammation and chronic, progressive neurodegeneration in the brain and spinal cord. Physicians are challenged with managing patients whose course ranges from mild disease with modest levels of disability to a small number of treatment-refractory cases with profound disability. Currently, no one can predict an individual patient’s course or whether they will respond to a prescribed therapy. Further, while we can suppress the inflammatory component of MS to some extent, there is no treatment for its neurodegenerative component and no treatment that cures a patient. Thus, this unpredictable illness takes a tremendous toll on patients and their families. However, with recent advances in biomedical science and analytic methods, MS is uniquely ready for the new tools of predictive modeling, which can integrate diverse datasets and answer critical questions beyond the reach of individual research efforts.

“The path forward is clear: through Orion Bionetworks, one large dataset of patients can be explored very deeply with all available platforms to create a reference atlas of MS,” said Philip De Jager, MD, PhD, a physician researcher at the Institute for Neurosciences at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “With such an atlas of MS, we can chart a route forward towards the personalization of MS care and the targeting of MS-related neurodegeneration.”

Additional information on the organization and partnership opportunities is available on the organization’s website, www.orionbionetworks.org.

Source: Business Wire

International Research Team Discovers Genes and Disease Mechanisms Behind a Common Form of Muscular Dystrophy

Continuing a series of groundbreaking discoveries begun in 2010 about the genetic causes of the third most common form of inherited muscular dystrophy, an international team of researchers led by a scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has identified the genes and proteins that damage muscle cells, as well as the mechanisms that can cause the disease. The findings are online and will be reported in the Jan. 17 print edition of the journal Developmental Cell.