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Roche Abandons Biomarker-Development Alliance With Epigenomics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Roche Diagnostics today said it has abandoned its 4-year-old cancer-screening collaboration with DNA-methylation company Epigenomics.
Terms of the alliance, penned in 2003, called for the partners to develop cancer drugs and diagnostic and prognostic tools for colon, breast, and prostate cancer using Epigenomics’ DNA-methylation technology and Roche’s PCR platform, and microarrays. In a statement today Roche said it decided to terminate the agreement because “the colorectal cancer screening data presented by Epigenomics to date did not meet Roche criteria for development as in vitro tests.”
As a result, Epigenomics has taken back the licensing rights to its Septin 9, the marker associated with colorectal cancer.
In response, Epigenomics’ COO Christian Piepenbrock said the company was “disappointed about Roche’s decision and strongly disagree[d] with their impression that our data does not support a development decision.”
He added that the company believes the colorectal biomarker panel warrants further “development and commercialization.”
As part of their original agreement, Roche contracted Epigenomics for a deal worth €$4 million ($4.25 million). The agreement also called for research funding, milestone payments, and royalties that could have reached as much as €100 million.
In January, Roche backed out of the prostate cancer portion of the alliance. At that time Epigenomics said it intended to continue to develop a DNA-methylation marker test that would determine the aggressiveness of prostate cancer and help physicians decide treatment regimens. Also at that time, Roche said it intended to continue its other partnerships with Epigenomics.
But later that month Roche also gave up on Epigenomics’ development of a test designed to measure response to the breast cancer drug tamoxifen. Epigenomics said it would continue the research on its own, and said it had regained sole ownership of the intellectual property and results of the investigation.

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