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Orion Genomics, Gene Logic, Roche Diagnostics, Epigenomics, Merck, Sirna, OncoMethylome Sciences, Veridex, MedImmune

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Orion Genomics Validates Markers For Early Detection of Breast Cancer
 
Orion Genomics announced this week that it has identified and validated a suite of novel breast cancer biomarkers using its DNA methylation profiling technology MethylScope.
From this panel, the most promising biomarkers will be incorporated into the company's diagnostic assays for the early detection of breast cancer and the detection of breast cancer recurrence, the company said in a release.
 
Independent validation of the panel of biomarkers found that the most promising markers presented 90 percent sensitivity and 96 percent specificity.
 
"We are now validating our most promising biomarkers in blood serum from cancer-free and breast cancer patients," Jorge Leon, Orion's acting chief scientific officer, said in a statement.
 

 
Gene Logic Sells Preclinical Division to Bridge Pharma for $15M
 
Gene Logic said last week that it has sold its preclinical division to San-Francisco-based contract research organization Bridge Pharmaceuticals for $15 million.
 
By unloading the division the Gaithersburg, Md.-based company said it will be better able to focus its resources on its drug repositioning business and to explore “strategic alternatives” for its genomics resources in molecular diagnostics and clinical biomarker development -- a strategy it initially disclosed in November [see PGx Reporter 11-15-06].
 
The $15 million purchase price for the preclinical services group is subject to adjustment for "certain changes in working capital and the assumption of certain liabilities associated with the business," Gene Logic said. In addition, an undisclosed portion of the purchase price will be held in escrow for up to one year.
 
Gene Logic acquired the preclinical services business in 2003 when it purchased TherImmune Research for $52 million.
 
Gene Logic CEO Mark Gessler said in a statement on Friday that the refocus is "driven in part by the continuing growth of our drug repositioning business," and cited recent deals with Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Roche, and Organon as examples of that growth.
 
Bridge, a drug developer and supplier of pharmaceutical data services for clients in Asia, said in a statement that it will retain all of Gene Logic's employees and will name the division Bridge Global Development Services.
 
Bridge is a spin off of Menlo Park, Calif.-based SRI International with US headquarters in San Francisco and laboratories in Beijing.
 

 
Roche Abandons Biomarker Development Alliance With Epigenomics
 
Roche Diagnostics said last week it has abandoned its 4-year-old cancer-screening collaboration with DNA methylation company Epigenomics.
 
Terms of the alliance, penned in 2003, called for the partners to develop cancer drugs and diagnostic and prognostic tools for colon, breast, and prostate cancer using Epigenomics’ DNA methylation technology and Roche’s PCR platform, and microarrays. In a statement, Roche said it decided to terminate the agreement because “the colorectal cancer screening data presented by Epigenomics to date did not meet Roche criteria for development as in vitro tests.”
 
As a result, Epigenomics has taken back the licensing rights to Septin 9, its marker associated with colorectal cancer.
 
In response, Epigenomics’ COO Christian Piepenbrock said the company was “disappointed about Roche’s decision and strongly disagree[d] with their impression that our data does not support a development decision.”
 
He added that the company believes the colorectal biomarker panel warrants further “development and commercialization.”
 
As part of their original agreement, Roche contracted Epigenomics for a deal worth €4 million ($4.25 million). The agreement also called for research funding, milestone payments, and royalties that could have reached as much as €100 million.
 
In January, Roche backed out of the prostate cancer portion of the alliance. At that time Epigenomics said it intended to continue to develop a DNA methylation marker test that would determine the aggressiveness of prostate cancer and help physicians decide treatment regimens. Also at that time, Roche said it intended to continue its other partnerships with Epigenomics.
 
But later that month Roche also gave up on Epigenomics’ development of a test designed to measure response to the breast cancer drug tamoxifen. Epigenomics said it would continue the research on its own, and said it had regained sole ownership of the intellectual property and results of the investigation.
 

 
Merck’s $1.1B Acquisition of Sirna Could Close by End of Year
 
Merck said last week that its acquisition of RNAi shop Sirna Therapeutics may close as early as this month.
 
Merck announced its plans to acquire Sirna for $1.1 billion in cash on Oct. 30. At the time, the company said it expected the deal to close by the first quarter of 2007.
Merck said it expects the deal to close “in late December 2006 or early in the first quarter of 2007.”
 
The acquisition must still be approved by Sirna's shareholders and meet other conditions. Sirna shareholders are expected to vote on the deal on Dec. 28.
 

 
J&J Unit Veridex Licenses OncoMethylome's Prostate Cancer Dx
 
OncoMethylome Sciences said last week it has licensed a prostate cancer test it is developing to Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Veridex.
 
OncoMethylome said it has completed the initial research phase of the urine-based test, and said Veridex will finish developing it and will have the rights to market the resulting product worldwide.
 
The company said that under the agreement it will receive an undisclosed milestone payment now and will be due royalties and sales milestones in the future.  
 
OncoMethylome said a urine-based test is better than tissue-based tests because 75 percent of the biopsies that are performed based on prostate-specific antigens return negative results, and because those tests sometimes miss cancer when it is present.
 
Financial terms of the deal were not released.
 

 
MedImmune Licenses Reverse Genetics IP to CSL for Flu Vaccines
 
MedImmune announced this week it has licensed its proprietary reverse genetics intellectual property to CSL Limited of Australia for the development of new human seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccines.
 
Reverse genetics, as a method, can be particularly important since it does not limit vaccine manufacturers to working with the infectious pandemic strain, such as H5N1. Rather, it “is a method by which viruses such as influenza can be generated entirely from segments of DNA,” MedImmune said in a release.
 
MedImmune will receive an upfront payment and may receive royalties on vaccine stockpiles or other product sales using the reverse genetics technology.
 
Financial terms of the deal were not released.

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