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OGT to Use Protein, MiRNA Platforms in Biomarker-Discovery Pact with Abcodia


By Justin Petrone

Oxford Gene Technology will use its protein and microRNA-profiling microarray platforms as part of a project with Abcodia to develop tests for the early detection of pancreatic cancer, the firms announced this week.

As part of the collaboration, OGT will use its technology to survey samples in Abcodia's serum biobank. London-based Abcodia, which focuses on identifying biomarkers for age-related diseases, maintains a biobank of 5 million samples, augmented annually from 200,000 initially healthy volunteers.

OGT and Acodia plan to look for markers in pancreatic cancer patients in samples taken up to seven years prior to their diagnosis that can be used as diagnostic indicators of the cancer.

OGT CEO Mike Evans told BioArray News this week that the partners will jointly own commercialization rights for any discovered markers. Though the Oxford, UK-based firm maintains a portfolio of different array and sequencing-based applications, from comparative genomic hybridization to RNA-seq, Evans said that for the deal with Abcodia, at least for the short term, the partners are "focusing on a combination of autoantibody and miRNA markers."

Abcodia CEO Julie Barnes said in a statement that the combination of OGT's array platforms with her firm's biobank resources "provides a real opportunity to significantly advance the field of early pancreatic cancer diagnosis and screening."

OGT gained its protein array platform through its 2009 acquisition of Sense Proteomic (BAN 3/17/2009). It consists of sets of human proteins immobilized onto a streptavidin-coated surface that uses a biotin carboxyl carrier protein tag, which is biotinylated only when correctly folded. This means that only biotinylated, and therefore correctly folded, proteins are attached to the slide surface.

Last year, OGT announced that it would use its protein array platform to develop a prostate cancer test, one of several legacy Sense Proteomic projects (BAN 10/5/2010).

This week, Evans said that OGT will use the platform to identify autoantibody biomarkers.

"Autoantibodies offer clear advantages as diagnostic biomarkers of disease, including early detection of disease, higher sensitivity and specificity, and easy accessibility from blood," he said.

OGT's array consists of over 1,300 proteins including kinases, surface and receptor proteins, cell signaling, transcription, cancer-related proteins, and known cancer antigens enriched for cancer and autoimmune proteins, said Evans.

He noted that the platform has retained its tag technology, which "ensures that only correctly folded, functional, and full-length proteins are presented on the array."

The tag also provides a "single point of attachment, which negates the problems of protein unfolding, random orientation, and non-specific binding that can occur with other protein attachment methods, ensuring only highly specific and sensitive biomarkers are identified," said Evans.

In addition to its protein array platform, the Abcodia pact will call for OGT to use its Genefficiency miRNA-screening services. Evans said that OGT uses Agilent Technologies' miRNA arrays in its service, citing the chips' "unique probe design" that allows "confident detection of both low-abundance and highly homologous miRNAs."

The service also consists of the company's internally developed quality-control and laboratory information-management systems.

OGT has been an Agilent certified service provider for three years. As such, Evans claimed that the company has "vast experience running and analyzing miRNA studies."

Looking forward, Evans noted that both OGT and Abcodia have "expertise in analysis of complex array-based data sets" and will be "combining their efforts to maximize the potential value from this collaboration."

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He said the firms aim to generate the initial data and complete the analysis "in a matter of months." Based on these results, the two British companies have plans to perform additional validation studies on any potential biomarkers.

A number of other firms with protein-array platforms have set their sights on developing tests for pancreatic cancer. These include Dortmund, Germany-based Protagen and Boulder, Colo.-based Somalogic.

The latter company last June described an 11-marker panel for diagnosing the disease, which is among the deadliest forms of cancer, but has not provided a timeline for when it hopes to have such a test on the market (BAN 6/15/2010).

Companies that sell miRNA-profiling platforms also have shown interest in developing tests for pancreatic cancer. Two examples are Copenhagen-based Exiqon and Austin, Texas-based Asuragen.

Asuragen in 2008 introduced a quantitative RT-PCR-based assay for differentiating pancreatitis from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, which it performs in its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment-compliant laboratory.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioArray News? Contact the editor at jpetrone [at] genomeweb [.] com