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Cellumen, MTPC to Develop Biomarker Panels for Early-Stage Drug Tox Screens

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Cellumen this week announced an agreement with Japan’s Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation to develop biomarker panels to identify toxicity early in the drug-development process.
 
This agreement marks Cellumen’s first play in the Asian market, but a company official said “there will be more to follow.” He did not elaborate.
 
MTPC and Cellumen are testing new classes of cellular functional biomarkers to build new biomarker panels for Cellumen’s CellCiphr product line, said Cellumen CEO Lansing Taylor. “We started with existing panels, and are building a range of new ones,” he said.
 
Taylor declined to elaborate, but said that Cellumen will be selling all the panels, reagents, and biomarkers that are developed under the agreement. 
 
The MTPC collaboration spun out of an initial project that the company engaged with Cellumen, said Don Taylor, Cellumen’s senior director of marketing and corporate development.
 
Taylor said Cellumen chose to work with MTPC because it is “one of the leaders in the pharmaceutical industry in the Asian market.”
 
He added that the firm is “progressive” in its drug discovery and drug development. “They are interested in exploring a wide range of biomarkers,” and are approaching this collaboration from a very scientific standpoint, said Lansing Taylor.  
 
Cellumen is open to future collaborations with MTPC. “They obviously believe in our cellular systems biology approach, which really underpins [Cellumen’s] CellCiphr profiling service,” Don Taylor said. He added that MTPC also recognizes the value of Cellumen’s existing profiling panels by collaborating with Cellumen in discovery toxicology.
 

“We started with existing panels, and are building a range of new ones.”

Taylor declined to give a timeline for Cellumen’s current collaboration with MTPC, but said that the project “is currently underway.”
 
In late July, Cellumen announced that it was spinning out its personalized medicine unit into a separate entity called Cernostics Pathology (see CBA News, 7/18/08). The new company will provide digital imaging pathology and tissue-based diagnostic products and services.
 
Cernostics is in the process of getting more funding, said Taylor. He also mentioned that Cernostics’ breast cancer patient stratification project with the Mayo Clinic is “moving along well.” In terms of the amount of money sought by Cernostics, “I would say that some time in September, we will have decided on our detailed steps,” he said.
 
Cellumen itself is stronger because its “core focus is on discovery toxicology, and we are serving this high-growth, currently underserved market,” Taylor said.  
 
In a separate deal announced earlier last month, Cellumen said it would use its CellCiphr technology to profile blinded samples of 50 compounds, including failed and marketed drugs, for the National Center for Toxicological Research, a research center of the US Food and Drug Administration (see CBA News, 7/7/08).
 
The NCTR “is a strong collaborator and very responsive to us. We are completely on schedule,” said Taylor.
 
In the fall, Cellumen will have additional announcements, concerning other big pharma customers that are coming on board, said Taylor. When asked if Cellumen plans to establish a footprint in the European market, Taylor said, “We are about to.”
 
Cellumen is also launching a new CellCiphr panel this fall that comprises H2C9 mouse cardiomyoblasts, said Taylor.

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