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Growing Technology Capability Lands Kinaxo Deal with Boehringer Ingelheim

With the expansion of its core technology’s capability, Kinaxo Biotechnologies this week announced a partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to use its quantitative chemical proteomics platform to hunt for new biomarkers and drug targets for neurodegenerative diseases.
Under the terms of the two-year deal, Kinaxo will use its anchor technology called Cellular Target Profiling, as well as a new phosphoproteomic technology to conduct two studies for the German drug giant. The first study will be a cell-line analysis measuring the effects of an enzyme inhibitor on the acetylation status of the cellular proteome.
In the second study, the company will use its new phosphoproteome platform to “determine differences in the signal transduction pathway activation status of a specific neuronal tissue when comparing wild type with a genetically modified mouse strain modeling a defined disease state,” the company said in a statement.
The goal is to identify new drug targets for diseases of the central nervous system, company CEO and co-founder Andreas Jenne told ProteoMonitor. He declined to elaborate.
Citing a confidentiality agreement, he also declined to disclose financial details for the alliance.
The deal marks the first time that the two companies are working together, Jenne said, and brings together two technologies that Kinaxo, spun out from the Max-Planck Institute for Biochemistry in the summer of 2006, only recently began to offer.
Kinaxo’s core technology, the Cellular Target Profiling platform, uses affinity chromatography to separate cellular targets of inhibitors from cell lysates, then uses mass spectrometry to identify target proteins. Once called KinaTor, the technology was renamed during the summer when the company built in the capability to do quantitative analysis. KinaTor, Jenne said, was known as a technology for identifying targets. But in many cases, pharma clients found that a limiting technology, he said.
“Before, it generated some frustration [with] some of our clients when they had a very specific compound and we ended up with 150 targets for that compound,” Jenne said. “They said, ‘Well, it’s nice to know that there are so many targets bound by the compound but we really need to know what the high-affinity targets are compared to the weak interactions.’”
In response, Kinaxo “moved the whole platform to the next stage so we’re not only able to identify the targets: we have now come to the stage where we can also deliver binding affinities,” he said. “We worked hard on the technology and … saw that we should really change the trademark,” as well. 
In the meantime, the company is also applying technology developed by Matthias Mann at Max-Planck applying stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture, or SILAC, technology on a mouse model. While SILAC has been used in cell-line work, the research by Mann and his colleagues — described in an article published in Cell during the summer — is the first use of the technology on a living organism.

Kinaxo “moved the whole platform to the next stage so we’re not only able to identify the targets: we have now come to the stage where we can also deliver binding affinities.”

With the technology, Kinaxo is now able to analyze how a candidate drug compound quantitatively affects cellular signaling pathways, and to identify and quantify compound target interactions, Jenne said.
“For example, here you have a mouse that’s been treated with a compound and you have a non-treated mouse,” he said. “You can compare the effects of the compound [at] the signal transduction level because you can expect that the compound, let’s say a kinase inhibitor, will have some influence on the phosphorylation status of the cell.”
With the expanding capabilities of its technologies, Kinaxo has had to develop its own bioinformatics software to handle the data. Mann originally developed the software, though Kinaxo is implementing new features for its own purposes.
Indeed, the work coming from Mann’s laboratory has proven to be a charm to Kinaxo. “We have this interaction with his laboratory, so we have access to his latest technology improvements and innovations,” Jenne said, adding that the research coming from the lab is “our lifeblood.” The company has various types of agreements with Max-Planck that enables it to use the different technologies.
Based in Martinsried, Germany, Kinaxo has thus far been able to buck the trends in a field that has been brutal to service-focused firms.
For 2008 the company is in line to see its first annual profit, Jenne said, and this week, in addition to its collaboration with Boehringer, which is located in Ingelheim, Germany, it announced marketing partnerships with BioCatalyst International and BioFocus DPI, the service division of drug-discovery firm Galapagos, to help debut its Cellular Target Profiling service in the US and Japan.
This year, Kinaxo has also entered into collaborations with Onconova Therapeutics for the clinical development of cancer drugs, and with Takeda San Diego giving its scientists access to the Cellular Target Profiling technology for drug discovery, preclinical research, and clinical development.
Just a little more than a year ago, Kinaxo purchased its first LC-MS system in response to a growing workload from its pharma customers, which allowed the company to move its mass spec-based proteomics and protein-analysis research in house [See PM 05/24/07]. Since then, it has purchased another mass spec, and expects to purchase a third instrument within six months, Jenne said.
“The bottleneck has always been mass spectrometry, so if you do that kind of complex analysis the instrument is busy four to five days, 24 hours day and night,” he said.
While Kinaxo’s business model has been strictly as a service company, Jenne said it is exploring other revenue streams, including biomarker research. The company is speaking with potential financial and research partners, he said, though those plans are only in the idea stage.

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