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Metamark, Definiens to Combine Protein Detection, Image Analysis in Predictive, Prognostic Assays

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In developing prognostic and predictive assays with the aid of Definiens' image analysis technologies, Metamark Genetics is hoping to advance personalized cancer care by capturing the heterogeneity within individual patients' tumors.

As part of a deal announced last week, Cambridge, Mass.-based Metamark's multiplex protein detection technology, called the Prognosis Determinant Discovery Platform, will be combined with Definiens' Developer XD and Tissue Studio image analysis software in an effort to advance cancer diagnostics.

Metamark developed the Prognosis Determinant platform based on technology licensed from Harvard University and Yale University. It claims on its website that it has used the technology to identify and validate markers of cancer metastases and progression for a number of different tumor types and that it is developing a suite of prognostic assays that will run on the platform, called MetamarkDx, for early-stage cancers.

Instead of focusing on correlative biomarkers associated with disease, the biomarkers that underlie the MetamarkDx assays "quantify the functional drivers of metastasis," the firm states on its website. The company claims that its diagnostic approach can gauge regions of "molecularly aggressive" cancer cells found in "otherwise indolent tumors."

Meanwhile, Definiens' image analysis software allows researchers to ascertain biomarker and tumor morphology expression profiles that they can then link to specific patient outcomes.

The software analyzes images from cell-based assays, whole-tissue slides, and full-body scans, "and allows users to correlate this information with data derived from other sources, supporting better decisions in research, diagnostics and therapy," Munich, Germany-based Definiens said in a statement.

Definiens and Metamark's strategic partnership to combine their technologies to advance multiplex tests comes as both firms are attempting to grow their presence in the personalized medicine space.

In February, researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and elsewhere, led by Metamark co-founders Lynda Chin and Ronald DePinho, published a study in Nature in which they identified a tumor suppressor of prostate cancer progression in mice and humans, and reported a four-marker signature that predicted biochemical recurrence and lethal metastasis in human prostate cancer.

Metamark holds an exclusive license to the findings described in the paper and is using them as the basis for a prostate cancer prognosis test.

"The capability to provide detailed readouts from tissue analysis is opening up new gateways for developing diagnostic assays as we enter the age of personalized medicine," Definiens VP of Sales and Operations Thomas Colarusso said in a statement. "We believe the Definiens Developer XD and Tissue Studio software will enable Metamark to classify tumor heterogeneity of multiplexed tissue stains and derive prognostic and predictive assays."

The company's Definiens XD software suite provides multidimensional image analysis for digital pathology, radiology, and high-content imaging. The platform can extract data from any digital image within a drug development or clinical diagnostics environment, according to the firm. Analysis can be performed in a semi-automated or fully-automated way, allowing manual intervention if necessary. The software, according to Definiens, can handle "millions of images within a single job."

Definiens Tissue Studio is a digital pathology image analysis software package intended to be used for translational biomarker research in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue samples treated with immunohistochemical staining assays, or hematoxylin and eosin. The tool can help researchers gauge the molecular features driving diseases, such as cancer.

Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

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