At the request of mutual customers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott, Iconix Pharmaceuticals and Rosetta BioSoftware will develop a tool that will enable Iconix's DrugMatrix data to operate on Rosetta's Resolver system, the tool vendors said last week.
As a result, researchers at the pharma giants -both of whom co-partner with Iconix- and new Rosetta and Iconix customers will now be able to convert Iconix's reference database of genomic analyses of chemical compounds into data that can be managed and analyzed on the Rosetta system.
Alan Engelberg, Iconix's vice president of product management, told BioArray News this week that BMS and Abbott currently use both systems in their drug development processes.
"They want to be able to look at Iconix's data in the Rosetta system and in our own system, so they want both options available," explained Engelberg.
Engelberg said both drug makers are intensifying the role that toxicogenomics data plays in the drug-development process. "They are much more actively using toxicogenomics because of their acquisition of DrugMatrix, so it's becoming more integrated to their normal drug-discovery system," Engelberg explained.
"A few years ago it was mostly experimental. Now it's starting to become integrated into the normal operating procedures of their discovery."
Engelberg said that Iconix's DrugMatrix data is available for 600 different chemical compounds, including drugs, toxicants, and withdrawn drugs with multiple time points and doses. He said the total data in the system was the equivalent of 15,000 microarray experiments.
"Everybody understands that this type of research has a promise for cutting the cost of drug development by providing data early enough in the process," Yelena Shevelenko, vice president and general manager, Rosetta BioSoftware.
Iconix and Rosetta will now develop a tool to convert the DrugMatrix data into data that can be read and analyzed on the Rosetta Resolver system, which analyzes gene-expression data.
"Basically, it will be very simple for both BMS and Abbott," said Engelberg. "They won't have to do anything, they'll just be able to load it up in the system the same way they would load any other kind of data."
The alliance has its roots in a January 2004 collaboration that gave BMS and Abbott access to Iconix's DrugMatrix chemogenomics database and its genomic biomarkers.
BMS planned to use chemogenomics technology in several research projects each year to prioritize candidate drugs, and to study the toxicity and mechanisms of new compounds before, during, and after pre-clinical development. Abbott, in the meantime, planned to use Iconix's technology to identify biomarkers for drug discovery.
Both companies also planned to develop cell-based gene expression-screening tests for early-stage compounds to assess their potential for liver toxicity.
Big Pharma Gets Serious on Tox
Yelena Shevelenko, the vice president and general manager of Rosetta Biosoftware, told BioArray News this week that Rosetta has seen an increase in big pharmaceutical companies using toxicogenomic data in recent years.
"The increase specifically happened last year, but is continuing into this year," Shevelenko said.
Shevelenko said that there were several reasons for big pharma to move from doing experimental toxicogenomic research to formally integrating the research into their drug-development process.
"First, customers can see real applications. Some of [these customers] generated results supporting that microarray data can be applied to toxicogenomics research," Shevelenko said.
FDA support for voluntary data submissions of toxicgenomic data has also encouraged big pharma to streamline toxic genomics into the process, Shevelenko said. "The FDA encourages pharmaceutical companies to submit toxicogenomics research," said Shevelenko.
"This is how [one can] see the technology is mature, [and that] the microarray platform has been proven to be useful."
Shevelenko said that the pharmacogenomics data submission guidance released earlier this year by the FDA had specifically contributed to the wider use of the Rosetta Resolver system (see BAN 3/30/2005).
Finally, she said that the recent high-profile withdrawal of drugs from the market had led pharmaceutical companies to take toxicogenomic research much more seriously. "I believe that companies are realizing that they could have prevented it. And they need to speed up drug discovery and development," she said.
"Everybody understands that this type of research has a promise for cutting the cost of drug development by providing data early enough in the process."
Jeff Waring, a toxicogenomics group leader at Abbott, declined to comment on the recent agreement between Rosetta and Iconix, and referred questions to Abbott's press office, which did not comment in time for this article .
An Open System
One of the perks of the setup between Rosetta, Iconix, and its customers is that Rosetta Resolver is an open system and will accept, manage, and analyze data from any microarray platform, according to Iconix's Engelberg.
Therefore, while Rosetta is exclusively distributed by Agilent Technologies and can accept and analyze data from Agilent microarrays, it can also analyze and manage Iconix's data, which was created using GE Healthcare's CodeLink platform.
In turn, Engelberg told BioArray News, its data is comparable to data obtained using other commercial platforms.
"We use CodeLink but [our data is] comparable to other platforms," Engelberg said.
"We've found that when you run an experiment with an Affymetrix array and you [collect] that data, you can still compare that against our database."
— Justin Petrone ([email protected]