By Ben Butkus
Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, a San Francisco-based startup using single-cell genomic analysis for drug discovery, is using Fluidigm's BioMark HD real-time PCR system as part of its discovery platform, Fluidigm said this week.
Quanticel, based upon the work of Stanford University professors Stephen Quake and Michael Clarke, burst onto the scene last week when it announced it had entered into a $45 million collaborative agreement with Celgene to develop new cancer drugs.
As part of the collaboration, Quanticel will use its technology platform to conduct single-cell genomic analysis of patient tumor samples and identify predictive biomarkers for Celgene investigational drugs. Quanticel said that it will also use its platform to perform independent drug discovery to generate its own drug candidates, which Celgene will have the option to acquire.
Under the terms of the agreement, Celgene will commit $45 million to Quanticel during the initial three and a half years of the alliance, and will have the option of extending the collaboration in exchange for additional funding. Celgene will also take an equity stake in Quanticel and will retain an exclusive option to acquire the company.
Quanticel has not disclosed details about its single-cell genomic analysis and discovery platform. However, this week Fluidigm CEO Gajus Worthington noted during a conference call recapping Fluidigm's third-quarter earnings that Quanticel is using Fluidigm's BioMark HD system as part of its single-cell genomics analysis work (see related story, this issue).
"A deal of this size for a company this new is a real credit to the team, and to the importance and power of single-cell genomics," Worthington said. "It's really exciting and rewarding for us to be in a position to contribute to success like this. In an environment where healthcare startups are struggling, Quanticel's victory is yet another sign that single-cell genomics is on the rise."
In an e-mail to PCR Insider, a Quanticel spokesperson said that the company is using "multiple, enabling single-cell technologies … including proprietary and non-commercial technologies." However, the spokesperson declined to provide additional details, citing the early and proprietary nature of the company's discovery platform.
"Quanticel’s platform allows for a single-cell, genomic analysis of patient tumor samples to identify novel drug targets and predictive biomarkers," the spokesperson said. "This approach can define new treatment strategies to address all tumor cell populations, and define mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance for difficult-to-treat cancers."
Stanford's Quake co-founded Fluidigm and chairs the company's scientific advisory board.
Besides Quake, Quanticel and Fluidigm also have in common the fact that they are portfolio companies of Bay Area venture capital firm Versant Ventures.
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