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MDS Pharma, Compendia Claim New Service Will Increase Efficiency, Lower Cost of PGx Profiling

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Drug discovery solutions provider MDS Pharma Services has combined its panel of 240 cancer cell lines with Compendia Bioscience's informatics platform to launch a new tool that the partners claim will help drugmakers develop genetically targeted cancer therapies more cheaply and efficiently.

The system, called OncoPredictor, combines MDS Pharma's OncoPanel cell lines with Compendia's Oncomine, a database of cancer genomic profiles and analysis tools. The system "will help identify cancer patient populations most likely to respond to a new or existing cancer therapy," the companies said in a statement.

The partners have already launched OncoPredictor and are "conducting its first run" on sorafenib, dasatinib, erlotinib, sunitinib, everolimus, and tandutinib, "to demonstrate the accuracy of this predictive technology," a spokesperson representing the companies told Pharmacogenomics Reporter. "The results are expected to be published in the near future," according to the spokesperson.

OncoPredictor was born when a customer using both Compendia's tools and MDS Pharma's cell lines combined them into a single technology platform.

The companies would not name this customer, but they noted that Jeffrey Settleman, scientific director for Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, validated the approach and demonstrated that a test compound's "sensitivity in cell lines can be well correlated with specific genomic rearrangements, including chromosomal translocations and gene amplification."

According to the companies, OncoPredictor will be able to help researchers identify the most-likely-to-respond population for a treatment, discover genetically targeted compounds, and develop cancer compounds more quickly. More importantly, Compendia and MDS Pharma claim that using OncoPredictor to develop cancer drugs will be cost-effective for companies, allowing them to develop more personalized drugs in less time.

"OncoPredictor will distribute the cost of growing and culturing and conducting genomic profiling experiments on hundreds of cell lines across many drug programs from many independent companies rather than each company doing this cell culture and genomic profiling independently," the spokesperson said.

According to the companies, generating gene expression data for a cell line costs at least $250,000. With the added cost of culturing 240 cell lines, the total price tag for conducting a genomic profiling experiment for a cancer drug ranges between $1 million and $1.5 million.

"OncoPredictor is driving cost of each experiment down to the $250,000 range, a substantial cost reduction," the spokesperson said. "Cost savings are greatest for companies that need to profile only a few compounds where the investment in infrastructure would be inhibitory."
Furthermore, savings can be generated from running human studies in small, targeted populations. Using OncoPredictor may also offset development costs by identifying new, unknown indications for existing drugs, which "can be a revenue generator," the spokesperson added.

According to the companies, prior to launching OncoPredictor, the efficacy and utility of OncoPanel and Oncomine were separately established through various drug and biotech clients who used the products in drug development efforts. However, the companies refused to name who their clients were, citing confidentiality agreements.

Compendia's Oncomine has been used by more than 10,000 academic researchers and 15 of the top 20 cancer research companies in the world, according to the spokesperson. The analysis platform can provide genomic characterization and comparison of cancer cell lines to 2,000 disease signatures from more than 27,000 reference patients based on molecular, pathological and histological sub-types.

Compendia has received $2.4 million in funding to date from the National Cancer Institute for the development of Oncomine.

MDS Pharma's OncoPanel was launched after the company provided a custom 300-cell line service to a large, unnamed pharma client. After the success of that program, MDS Pharma launched a pilot program with a number of smaller cell line panels for several drug and biotech clients. These "smaller panels helped in the development of a streamlined program able to handle large cell line panels across many clients and compounds," the spokesperson said.

Currently, MDS Pharma is the only CRO that has generated cellular data using the same growth and culture conditions that Compendia uses to generate genomic profiling data in Oncomine. This is yet another reason for combining the two companies' technologies, the partners said.

"Researchers and drug developers are always seeking a better way to increase their chances of success," the spokesperson said. "OncoPredictor offers a novel solution to the problem of finding the right patients for research efforts on a complex disease such as cancer."

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