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Bionomics Wins AUS$267K in Grants from Australian Government to Support Angiogenesis Research


Australian biotech and drug-development firm Bionomics has been awarded an Aus$247,000 (US$187,000) Federal Government Biotechnology Innovation Fund grant to “further its work on the development of targets for antibody treatments which inhibit angiogenesis,” the company said in a statement last week.

In addition, Bionomics said it was awarded an Aus$20,000 grant from the South Australian Government’s BioInnovationSA for the same project.

Bionomics will apply the grant money toward its Angene platform for angiogenesis drug discovery, Deborah Rathjen, CEO and managing director of Bionomics, told Inside Bioassays last week.

The company is primarily focused on internal drug discovery efforts, Rathjen said, but Angene and IonX — Bionomics’ other major drug-discovery platform — are also used as revenue generators for the company on a fee-for-service basis.

Bionomics’ angiogenesis-related drug discovery efforts focus on cancer, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and rheumatoid arthritis, while IonX centers primarily on CNS disorders, primarily epilepsy.

According to Gabriel Kremmidiotis, Bionomics’ director of cancer research, the Angene platform involves a specific protocol for uncovering and validating potential targets for antibody-based therapies for angiogenesis-related disease states.

“In the first instance, we use subtractive hybridization to generate cDNA libraries [of candidate genes], generate cDNA clones, and spot them on microarrays,” Kremmidiotis said. “This is done in relatively high throughput. We then run cell-based assays in medium throughput, and move onto animal models, which are lower throughput, for in vivo evaluation [of treatments].”

Kremmidiotis said that standard microarray technology is used for the cDNA experiments, while the cell-based assays primarily comprise siRNA silencing of targets, proliferation assays, and matrigel capillary tube formation assays. Bionomics then investigates specific targets in vivo by implanting sponges that support angiogenesis-like activity under the skin of live mice, staining for blood vessel formation, and conducting automated computer-assisted analyses.

Kremmidiotis this Thursday will be presenting these methods, as well as candidate genes that Bionomics has uncovered thus far, at the Target Validation portion of this week’s Discovery on Target meeting, being held in Boston by Cambridge Healthtech Institute.

Earlier this year, Bionomics inked a deal with PerkinElmer to collaborate on drug-screening programs against ion channel and G-protein coupled receptor targets, incorporating PerkinElmer’s ImageTrak microplate reader. (See Inside Bioassays, 5/18/2004)

Rathjen said that Bionomics is not pursuing similar instrumentation partnerships for the Angene program, but did cite a co-development agreement it has struck with GenMab for antibody development.

Apparently Bionomics is making good progress in its epilepsy drug discovery program, as evidenced by a strategic alliance, announced just yesterday, with Genetic Technologies Limited (GTG), to commercialize genetic tests for epilepsy.

Under the terms of the agreement, Bionomics has granted GTG worldwide testing and marketing rights, including exclusivity for Australia and New Zealand, to Bionomics’ epilepsy tests. Specific financial details of the agreement were not disclosed, but Bionomics said that GTG will pay it a signing fee, royalties, and future milestone payments in relation to revenues generated from the epilepsy tests.

— BB


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