Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Tech Transfer Tidbits: Apr 29, 2009


Pfizer and University College London Ink Research, Licensing Pact for Stem Cell-Based Ophthalmologic Rxs

Pfizer's Regenerative Medicine unit has inked a sponsored research and licensing agreement with University College London to develop stem cell-based therapies for ophthalmic conditions, Pfizer said last week.

Under the agreement, Pfizer will provide unspecified funding to support research on differentiating stem cells into retinal pigment epithelium cells to develop therapies for wet and dry age-related macular degeneration and other retinal diseases.

Pfizer will be granted exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize therapies based on the research in the ophthalmology field.

It is unclear whether Pfizer will automatically own the rights to any discovery made under the collaboration, or whether UCL will retain rights to any discoveries in non-ophthalmologic fields. Calls to Pfizer and UCL Business, the university's tech-transfer arm, were not returned in time for this publication.

After completing pre-clinical safety studies, Pfizer will have the option to conduct clinical trials and commercialize any resulting product, it said.

Pete Coffey, a professor in UCL's Institute for Ophthalmology, will direct the project. "We have not only the benefit of Pfizer's experience of the regulatory process and their expertise in stem cell technology, but the ability, if this works, to produce on a much larger scale," Coffey said in a statement.

Pfizer launched its Regenerative Medicine unit in November as an independent research organization to develop drug-discovery tools and regenerative medicines.

Clarient Licenses Breast Cancer Biomarker from Indiana University

Cancer diagnostics and pathology firm Clarient said last week that it has been granted an exclusive license from the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation for the rights to commercialize the FOXA1 biomarker, which predicts the likelihood of recurrence and long-term, disease-free survival in breast cancer patients.

Clarient said that the licensing of this IP further strengthens its menu of molecular tests for breast cancer and will complement the Clarient Insight Dx Breast Cancer Profile, which is expected to be released soon, though the company did not elaborate.

The FOXA1 marker, also known as forkhead box A1, is a gene linked to breast cancer, Clarient said. Recent data presented at the 2009 United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology meeting demonstrated that the expression of FOXA1, now known to be an estrogen receptor-associated transcription factor, correlated with results from Oncotype Dx when performed in patient samples from Indiana University.

Oncotype Dx is a gene expression test for breast cancer marketed by Genomic Health.

Clarient said that the study's researchers concluded that Oncotype Dx and the FOXA1 marker could potentially be used interchangeably if further validation studies confirm the findings.

Nanosys and Harvard Seek to Outlicense Nanowire IP for Biosensor, Other Applications

Nanosys said this week that it has signed two agreements with Harvard University to combine their intellectual property assets for out-licensing in the areas of nanowire-based biosensors and nanowire-based non-volatile memories.

The IP is available for out-licensing to any interested third parties, Nanosys said. The available technology was invented in the laboratory of Charles Lieber, a professor of chemistry at Harvard University, as well as other nanotech researchers at Nanosys and other undisclosed universities associated with Nanosys.

The available IP includes Nanosys' portfolio covering all aspects of nanowire production, functionalization, material interface technologies, fabrication technologies, basic devices using nanostructures, applications and architectures; as well as Harvard's portfolio of nanowire-based biosensor and non-volatile memory-related IP.

"Our nanotechnology licensing program complements our core business focus, thereby providing the market with a convenient licensing option to our fundamental patent portfolio in areas that we are not fully exploiting ourselves," Andrew Filler, general counsel and vice president of intellectual property at Nanosys, said in a statement.

In February, Harvard and Nanosys said that they had recently granted an exclusive, worldwide license to IP related to the use of nanowires as biosensors to 2007 Harvard spinout Vista Therapeutics, which is attempting to commercialize the technology as a device for measuring blood and urinary biomarkers of organ and tissue injury in real time (see BTW, 2-25-09).

Lieber and Harvard founded Nanosys in 2001 to commercialize the nanowires as biosensors in either medical or biomedical research applications. For various reasons, Nanosys discontinued pursuing biological applications for the technology in favor of other applications.

Luminex Settles DNA-Sequencing IP Spat with SUNY, University of Illinois

Luminex said today that it has settled pending litigation with the State University of New York Research Foundation and the University of Illinois related to a DNA-sequencing technology patent-infringement and breach-of-contract lawsuit.

As part of the settlement, the plaintiffs received a one-time cash payment of $4.35 million with no admission of fault, Luminex said.

Luminex said that it made the cash payment in exchange for resolution of the dispute between the parties and a complete release of all claims by the plaintiffs against Luminex and, correspondingly, a complete release of all claims by Luminex against the plaintiffs.

The parties intend to formally dismiss the lawsuit, as required by the settlement agreement, Luminex said.

SUNY filed the lawsuit in December 2007 against Luminex and its subsidiary Luminex Molecular Diagnostics, alleging that Luminex infringed patents and breached a contract related to DNA-sequencing technology originally developed by SUNY researchers Michael Lane, Albert Benight, and Brian Faldasz in the late 1980s and early 1990s (see BTW, 12-10-2007).

A spokesperson for Luminex told BTW this week that the University of Illinois was a co-plaintiff in the suit.

TEDCO, J&J COSAT Provide $225K to Two Maryland Industry-Academia Partnerships

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation this week said that two early-stage biomedical companies have received joint funding awards through TEDCO's Maryland Technology Transfer Fund and the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology.

The joint MTTF/J&J COSAT program awarded $75,000 to BioMarker Strategies, located in the Science and Technology Park at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Under a sponsored research agreement with Johns Hopkins, BioMarker Strategies is developing an automated tumor biopsy processing and testing system called SnapPath.

The program also awarded $150,000 to College Park, Md.-based LeukoSight, which is working with the University of Maryland, College Park, to develop anti-inflammatory therapeutics based on a parent compound called Fc-Dimers, which is a potent immunomodulator that mimics many of the anti-inflammatory properties of intravenous immunoglobulin.

The joint program complements TEDCO's MTTF fund by awarding as much as $150,000 to existing TEDCO portfolio companies or $75,000 to Maryland companies that have not received an MTTF award in the past.

In order to be eligible for funding, companies must be early-stage businesses engaged in life sciences and biotechnology tech-transfer collaborations with a university or federal laboratory in Maryland.

Tocris Bioscience Licenses Caged Compounds from Columbia U for Research Applications

Tocris Bioscience said this week that it has licensed RuBi-GABA, a novel caged-GABA compound with significant applications for basic science research, from Columbia University Science & Technology Ventures.

Caged compounds are biologically relevant molecules rendered inactive by a photolabile bond to a chemical group. Typically, the active molecule can be uncaged by breaking this bond with light, resulting in activation of the compound.

Photorelease of caged bioactive molecules is a powerful tool for studying molecular mechanisms, as pre-determined amounts of such molecules can be delivered at precise, controllable time points, Tocris said. Photoactivated RuBi-GABA triggers the release of GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system.

RuBi-GABA is the first of a series of ruthenium-based caged compounds being developed by Rafael Yuste and collaborators at Columbia, Beth Kauderer, the STV employee who negotiated the license agreement with Tocris, said in a statement.

"This technology will help scientists to better understand the neuronal circuitry of the brain, as well as molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease, and may lead to the development of safer and more effective therapies for epilepsy, depression, and many other conditions," Kauderer said.

Tocris Bioscience is the trading name for the companies in the Tocris Cookson Group, a privately held company headquartered in Bristol, UK. Its US subsidiary, Tocris Cookson, is located in St. Louis.