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PerkinElmer Bets Euroscreen Buy Will Boost GPCR

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PerkinElmer hopes to continue bolstering its portfolio of cell-based drug-discovery tools by acquiring Euroscreen Products, a subsidiary of Belgian drug-discovery operation Euroscreen, for an undisclosed cash sum.

The acquisition stands to provide PerkinElmer a sturdier foothold in the G-protein coupled receptor assay-screening market, and plays into the company's well-publicized strategy to better compete in the overall cell-based assay arena.
Euroscreen, of Gosselies, Belgium, specializes in GPCR assays based on the aequorin calcium-sensitive luminescent photoprotein. It exclusively licensed the core technology from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, and markets its assays under the name AequoScreen. Euroscreen sells cell lines and membranes expressing GPCRs and aequorin, and provides assay protocols for these technologies.

Under the terms of the agreement, Euroscreen would transfer to PerkinElmer its portfolio of GPCR screening tools and its exclusive global license to the aequorin technology.

Last year, Alfred Gray, Euroscreen's director of business development, said that partnering with instrumentation vendors is essential to selling its assay technology, and that its research facility doubles as a customer demo site for CyBio's CyBi-Lumax and Hamamatsu's FDSS instruments.

Euroscreen will continue with what Gray called a "dual-platform approach to biotech survival," which consists of conducting internal drug-discovery and offering contract drug-screening services, both based primarily on GPCR targets.

For PerkinElmer, the deal, expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2007, represents a deeper penetration into the GPCR screening market. GPCRs are one of the most investigated and exploited drug target families. PerkinElmer believes that GPCR targets comprise between 30 and 40 percent of drug screening programs. Some industry reports have estimated that figure may be more than 40 percent, and that GPCRs are targets for more than 50 percent of all currently marketed pharmaceuticals.

— Ben Butkus

 

Mayo: Gene Expression No Better Than Histology

A Mayo Clinic meta-analysis of published studies shows that gene array-based profiling is no better than conventional histological methods at prognosing lung cancer.

"There are many studies currently ongoing using microarrays, but many of them may not be useful clinically," says Zhifu Sun, a research associate in the Department of Health Sciences Research at the Mayo Clinic.

"If we find something that is just a surrogate of the same thing that we currently measure, [then] that may be not very useful," he says.

Sun was the main author in the Cancer Epidemiology study, "Gene Expression Profiling on Lung Cancer Outcome Prediction: Present Clinical Value and Future Premise," which reviewed recently published outcomes in lung cancer using microarray technology and found that gene expression profiling is "not quite perfected."  The studies used technologies such as cDNA arrays and Affymetrix's GeneChip platform.

Sun discussed the role of tumor cell type in lung cancer prognosis to note that microarray technology doesn't necessarily add value to cancer treatment over conventional methods.

According to Sun, oncologists can use histological predictors and microarray technology to determine tumor cell type. Therefore, in lung cancer, molecular profiling may be a surrogate to, but not necessarily better than, conventional methods. "They measure the same thing but from different angles," Sun says. "So they are redundant. The microarray is not a cheap test. It costs a lot right now."

The cost effectiveness of genetic tests is currently being debated by disparate groups within health care. For instance, one collaborative study between the Mayo Clinic and the pharmacy benefit manager Medco is looking into the pharmacoeconomics of genetic testing in warfarin therapy. The Medco/Mayo alliance comes on the heels of a Harvard Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics study investigating the clinical and economic utility of using genetic data in warfarin therapy.

— Turna Ray

 

Short reads

Transinsight, a bioinformatics startup based in Dresden, Germany, has entered a three-year collaboration with the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in the area of biomedical image analysis. The company says it plans to extend its GoPubMed search engine "towards biomedical image search and knowledge-based image recognition."

Ingenuity Systems announced a global licensing deal to provide Japan-based Astellas Pharma with Ingenuity Pathways Analysis software and a biological pathways database.

The first high-resolution analysis of genomic alterations in breast tumors has been reported in Genome Research. Led by senior author James Hicks, the research team found three distinct patterns of genomic variation that underlie breast tumor formation, including genomic "firestorms" that may predict aggressive disease progression and short survival.

Orion Genomics announced that it has identified and validated a set of new breast cancer biomarkers, the most promising of which will be incorporated into the company's diagnostic assays for breast cancer detection and recurrence.

Bio-Rad Laboratories licensed an early-detection rheumatoid arthritis test from Axis-Shield. The assay, based on anti-CCP antibodies, will run on Bio-Rad's BioPlex 2200 system, which already holds several assays designed for other autoimmune diseases.

OncoMethylome Sciences has licensed a urine-based prostate cancer test to Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Veridex, which plans to finish development prior to marketing the resulting product worldwide.

MedImmune has licensed its proprietary reverse genetics intellectual property to CSL Limited of Australia for the development of new human seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccines. MedImmune will receive an upfront payment and may receive royalties on vaccine stockpiles or other product sales using the reverse genetics technology.

According to Scott Gottlieb, deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs at the FDA, "policy forces" in the US government are preventing genomic technologies from helping physicians make off-label prescribing decisions. "Physicians will not be able to always wait for FDA to approve a new label for every one of their patients, and drug companies will not be able to conduct a trial to explore every possible contingency," he says.

Diagnostic test provider Quidel signed an exclusive, worldwide license for the MChip microarray-based influenza detection technology developed by scientists at the University of Colorado and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quidel plans to develop and market molecular-based diagnostic tests based on the MChip for use in pandemic surveillance and clinical applications.

Patents

US patent application 20060294611. WIP, a WASP-associated protein. Inventors: Narayanaswamy Ramesh, Miguel de la Fuente, Ines Anton, and Raif Geha. Assignee: The Children's Medical Center, Boston. Filed: December 28, 2007.

This filing covers a novel gene and its product, WIP, which associates with WASP. One subject of this invention relates to methods of treating conditions or diseases in which WIP or WASP nucleic acid or protein is altered in such a way that an individual is adversely affected. Also described are methods to regulate WIP and its functions, as well as to generate an assay to identify drugs which alter the activity of WIP.

US patent application 20060294605. Novel human dickkopf-related protein and nucleic acid molecules and uses therefor. Inventor: Sean McCarthy. Assignee: Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Filed: February 28, 2005.

In this application, novel Dkk and Dkk-related polypeptides, proteins, and nucleic acid molecules are disclosed. In addition to isolated, full-length Dkk and Dkk-related proteins, the invention further provides isolated fusion proteins, antigenic peptides, and antibodies. Diagnostic, screening, and therapeutic methods using compositions of the invention are also provided.

US Patent 7,148,008. Methods for predicting drug sensitivity in patients afflicted with an inflammatory disease. Inventor: Hakon Hakonarson. Assignee: DeCode Genetics. Issued: December 12, 2006.

This invention discloses methods for predicting the efficacy of a drug for treating inflammatory disease in a human patient. These methods cover obtaining samples of cells; obtaining a gene expression profile of the sample with or without the in vitro modulation of cells with specific cytokines or mediators; and comparing the gene expression profile of the sample with a reference gene expression profile, wherein similarities between the sample and reference expression profiles are predictive of the efficacy of the drug.

US Patent 7,157,241. Serine protease genes related to DPPIV. Inventors: Steve Qi, Karen Akinsanya, Pierre Riviere, and Jean-Louis Junien. Assignee: Ferring. Issued: January 2, 2007.

This invention relates to novel serine proteases related to dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPPIV) and to isolated nucleic acids coding for such proteases. According to the abstract, these proteins and polypeptides are useful for the discovery of new therapeutic agents, for measuring protease activity, and for determining inhibitory effects of compounds against the proteases.

Data point

$937,500

Transgenomic hopes to pocket $937,500 in a private stock placement with New River Pharmaceuticals when the sale is scheduled to close later this month. The company plans to use the proceeds for general working capital purposes.

$15 million

In a move to focus resources on its drug repositioning business, Gene Logic has sold its preclinical services business to Bridge Pharmaceuticals for $15 million. The staff will stay in place, but the preclinical division will now be known as Bridge Global Development Services.

The Scan

Guidelines for Ancient DNA Work

More than two dozen researchers have developed new ethical guidelines for conducting ancient DNA research, which they present in Nature.

And Cleared

A UK regulator has cleared former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in concerns he should have registered as a consultant-lobbyist for his work with Illumina, according to the Financial Times.

Suit Over Allegations

The Boston Globe reports that David Sabatini, who was placed on leave from MIT after allegations of sexual harassment, is suing his accuser, the Whitehead Institute, and the institute's director.

Nature Papers on Esophageal Cancer, Origin of Modern Horses, Exome Sequencing of UK Biobank Participants

In Nature this week: genetic and environmental influences of esophageal cancer, domestic horse origin traced to Western Eurasian steppes, and more.