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Forma, Moffitt Collaborate on Epigenetics Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Forma Therapeutics and the Moffitt Cancer Center today announced a collaboration and exclusive license option aimed at epigenetics-based research to identify potential drug candidates targeting histone deacetylases.

The agreement will investigate mechanisms of action and differentiation profiles of potential therapeutic drug candidates, providing insights that may be used to treat patients with HDAC modulators, the partners said, adding the deal will combine Forma's drug discovery team with Moffitt's clinical and translational scientists in an open-access business framework.

Forma and Moffitt will conduct research studies, and via a strategic directive called Moffitt Innovative Studies — through which Moffitt researchers can identify new areas of epigenetics research through an internal peer review process — the partners will investigate new targets and other emerging epigenetic mechanisms, they said. Forma may choose to fund projects conducted as part of the directive.

Researchers will have access to in vitro and in vivo biological systems and anonymized patient samples for functional profiling and will identify and characterize non-histone HDAC substrates to elucidate the role of selective HDAC inhibitors on immune and cancer cell function, as well as to assess biological activity in applicable disease models.

The alliance is being co-led at Moffitt by Ed Seto, a senior member in the department of molecular oncology, and Eduardo Sotomayor, Susan and John Sykes Endowed Chair in Hematologic Malignancies and chair of the department of malignant hematology.

"In order to continually advance innovative cancer treatments, interrogating the molecular complexities of immunology and epigenetics is paramount," Moffitt President and CEO Alan List said in a statement. "Working with Forma's leading scientists capable of generating potent and specific tools to probe clinical hypotheses has the potential to redefine critical roadmaps that control cancer development."

As part of the agreement, an epigenetic consortium comprising researchers from Forma and Moffitt is being created.

Forma CSO and head of R&D Kenneth Bair said that the agreement could potentially expand knowledge about the clinical uses of highly selective histone deacetylase modulators and other epigenetic and immune control factors. "This unique opportunity to probe the pathophysiological contributions of target-selective compounds across related molecular pathways in a disease-relevant setting will guide our creation of breakthrough drugs," he said.

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