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Expression Pathology Inks Deal to Use FFPE Technology to Develop Pharmacoproteomic Assays

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This story originally ran on May 6.

Further leveraging its technology to develop and validate assays, Expression Pathology this week announced a collaboration with Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and the University Health Network, comprised of Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, and Princess Margaret Hospital.

Under the terms of the deal, Expression Pathology will use its Liquid Tissue SRM proteomic assay platform to develop and validate an assay "to improve the identification of patients most likely to respond to anti-EGFR cancer drugs," the Rockville, Md., firm said in a statement.

The technology will be combined with the Hospital for Sick Children's "advanced" mass spectrometry capabilities and UHN's pathology and oncology expertise. The project, Expression Pathology said, addresses two challenges — the ability to accurately measure the EGFR protein and its activation in cancer, and the ability to do so in formalin-fixed paraffin embedded tissue, the standard form of tissue preservation used in medical facilities.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Liquid Tissue technology is a method for solubilizing and capturing the total protein content in microdissected FFPE tissue, which, while widely used in light-microscopy, is used much less frequently in proteomics research, where immunohistochemistry is the standard method for identifying tissue proteins.

However, immunohistochemistry is inappropriate for FFPE tissue because such tissue creates crosslinks that make proteins insoluble and unsuitable for routine chemical analysis. Expression Pathology's technology uses heat buffers and enzymatic digestion to undo the crosslinking in the tissues.

The partnership will also use the company's Director Laser microdissection technology for the rapid, automated collection of cancer cells from patient tissues. Meanwhile, advances in single-reaction monitoring mass spec methods allow for the accurate measurement of targeted proteins, such as EGFR, in "minute amounts of sample," Expression Pathology said.

The deal is the most recent by the company in recent months applying its technology for assay development and is "part of a broad program we have embarked on to exploit our unique ability to apply mass spectrometry to FFPE tissue," Jon Burrows, the company's vice president of R&D, said. "We are developing quantitative companion diagnostic Liquid Tissue SRM Assays for many important protein pathways targeted by existing and emerging cancer drugs."

In December, Expression Pathology and Thermo Fisher Scientific's Biomarker Research Initiatives in Mass Spectrometry center announced a collaboration to develop assays for identifying cancer protein biomarkers (PM 12/18/09). A month earlier Expression Pathology licensed non-exclusive rights to its Liquid Tissue patent to the Mayo Clinic for the diagnosis of amyloidosis in FFPE (PM 11/20/09).

A year ago, biotechnology and therapeutics firm Abraxis Biosciences gave the company a $6.5 million shot in the arm to continue developing pharmacogenomic clinical assays on the Liquid Tissue technology (PM 04/23/09).

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