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Novartis and BioVision Renew Vows to Continue Proteomic Biomarker Research

Novartis signaled its continued interest in the proteomics field by penning a biomarker-discovery deal with Digilab BioVision, a follow-up to an alliance begun in 2004.
As with the 2004 agreement, the new deal calls for Novartis to use Digilab BioVision’s proprietary Peptidomics technology to evaluate clinical samples for relevant peptides.
“In the first phase of our cooperation, we were successful [in delivering] very satisfying results to our partner and have proved that our Peptidomics approach offers the solution of choice for biomarker discovery,” Digilab BioVision CBO Rainer Voegeli said in a statement announcing the new collaboration.
Hartmut Selle, manager of customer projects for Digilab BioVision, said the new deal “is not a direct continuation [of the 2004 partnership] but it’s related concerning the underlying topic and disease.”
He declined to reveal the specific disease area the two companies will be researching, but signaled they are looking for biomarkers for the same disease as in the 2004 deal.
“It’s in the same area,” said Selle. “There are some changes in the program, so it’s not just [that] we’re working on the same project. It’s a different one but it’s under the same umbrella, the same topic, the same field of research.”

“With the knowledge from our research, you can make conclusions [about] the disease or the pathometabolism. So it’s not just a biomarker, it can give you a clue to the treatment of the disease.”

The first agreement, Selle said, was strictly for the discovery of biomarkers. The new agreement “is [for] discovery as well, but if we’re lucky we can add some validation to it.”
For Novartis, the deal is a further sign that it is committed to proteomic research. Last year, for example, scientists at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation developed a new method for selective and reversible capture of modified peptides [See PM 04/22/05].
Novartis is also part of a partnership, created by the US Food and Drug Administration as part of its Critical Path Initiative, to develop guidelines for biomarker use [See PM 03/23/06].
And Novartis had licensed a protein from GeneProt before that company closed up shop. The deal was the result of an earlier agreement between the two companies under which GeneProt analyzed proteomes for potential diagnostic markers or therapeutic proteins [See PM 04/14/03].

The new agreement “is [for] discovery as well, but if we’re lucky we can add some validation to it.”

The Digilab BioVision collaboration marks the second transaction for the company since Canton, Mass.-based Digilab purchased BioVision six months ago. The first deal, disclosed in March, was with Boehringer Ingelheim to analyze the quantitative peptide content of biological samples using its Peptidomics technologies.
BioVision was founded in 1997 as a spin-off of the Lower Saxony Institute of Peptide Research with a mandate to commercialize technologies examining the peptidome [See PM 05/14/2004]. Based in Hannover, Germany, its flagship technology is the Differential Peptide Display bioinformatics software, which analyzes mass spectra to find peptides differentially expressed between sample sets.
The peptide is first found by mass spectrometry. The peptide contents from different samples are compared to determine if any patterns exist. Then the structure of the peptides and the amino acid sequence are determined.
“With that knowledge you can go into the metabolism of the disease, for example, and what exactly is the role of the peptide,” Selle said. “With the knowledge from our research, you can make conclusions [about] the disease or the pathometabolism. So it’s not just a biomarker; it can give you a clue to the treatment of the disease.”
In addition to its agreement with Novartis, Digilab BioVision has had collaborations for the discovery of biomarkers with other drug makers and life-science companies, including AstraZeneca, Merck, Abbott, and Applied Biosystems.
Novartis did not respond to several requests for interviews.

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