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MDx Firms Get $9M in NCI Bridge Grants

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Cancer Institute has awarded nearly $9 million in new Small Business Innovation Research grants to the biomarker-based and molecular diagnostic cancer testing companies 20/20 GeneSystems, AmberGen, and Advanced Cell Diagnostics (ACD).

The three firms have all won NCI's 2010 Phase II Bridge Awards, which are aimed at helping early-stage biomedical companies make their way through the so-called 'valley of death' between receiving Phase II grants and venture funding or the commercialization of their technologies.

The Bridge program provides up to $3 million following a Phase II award to help speed commercialization of new cancer treatments and diagnostic technologies.

NCI believes that by sharing the risk on development of these technologies it is giving venture financers incentives to invest in them earlier in the development.

Advanced Cell Diagnostics, based in Hayward, Calif., will use the $3 million in Bridge funding to continue developing its CTCscope system, which uses in situ RNA detection technology to detect, enumerate, and analyze circulating tumor cells in cancer patients. ACD plans to work with researchers from universities to develop the CTCscope into an automated system and to conduct clinical studies to show its clinical utility.

"The previous Phase I and Phase II grants have helped ACD to develop the underlying RNAscope technology, which has since been translated successfully into research use only products for in situ detection of RNA biomarkers in FFPE samples," ACD President and CEO Yuling Luo said in a statement from the company.

Rockville, Md.-based 20/20 GeneSystems will use its $2.8 million grant to advance its pharmacogenomic test, which uses multiple biomarkers to predict patient response to cancer therapies that target signaling pathways. The firm's technology uses immunohistochemistry to allow 10 or more biomarkers to be measured from one section of biopsied tumor tissue.

Watertown, Mass.-based AmberGen is working on testing technology for use in discovering and detecting molecular profiles of disease.. The firm will use its $3 million NCI grant to continue evaluating and refining a gene expression-based prognostic assay that monitors the recurrence and response to treatment of colorectal cancer.

At its second annual SBIR Investor Forum next week at Stanford University, NCI will feature in vitro diagnostic and companion diagnostic companies and technologies. The investor forum includes a total of 14 companies that will engage with NCI leadership and investment firms and industry executives through forums, presentations, breakout sessions, and networking.

For this year's forum, NCI selected to present in vitro diagnostics companies Biomarker Strategies, GLC Biotechnology, KineMed, Fluxion Biosciences, and MagArray, as well as the therapeutic and companion diagnostic company Etubics.

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