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Leica Biosystems, Merrimack Pharma Collaborate on Companion Dx

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Leica Biosystems and Merrimack Pharmaceuticals have announced a partnership to develop heregulin assays as a companion diagnostic for the investigational therapy seribantumab.

Under the terms of the agreement, the assays will be based on Advanced Cell Diagnostics' RNAscope technology and will be processed on Leica Biosystems' BOND clinical staining systems.

"The use of RNAscope technology on Leica Biosystems' automated staining platforms will allow us to detect HRG with high sensitivity and specificity, helping to identify the patients most likely to benefit from seribantumab treatment," Merrimack Director of Companion Diagnostics Jason Baum said in a statement.

Seribantumab is a human monoclonal antibody which targets the cell surface receptor ErbB3, which is activated by heregulin. Heregulin-driven ErbB3 signaling identifies a cancer phenotype that is characterized by increased tumor growth and resistance to targeted, cytotoxic, and anti-endocrine therapies. The drug is being investigated in combination with other therapies to determine its impact on the anti-tumor effects of its partner.

Leica Biosystems' Danvers, Massachusetts-based Companion Diagnostics Research and Development site will lead the firm's contribution to the project, while assay manufacturing will occur in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK.

Leica Biosystems President Matthias Web said the deal was helping to "[pave] the way for in situ RNA detection in personalized medicine." It is the first effort to come out of a deal between Leica Biosystems and Advanced Cell Diagnostics, announced in January, to develop tissue-based diagnostics.

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