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Proteome Systems Discloses Initial Results Of Egenix Deal, Expands Agilent Alliance

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Proteome Systems this week announced the first results of its 5-month-old collaboration with New York-based Egenix to develop a diagnostic for prostate cancer. The company said it has discovered a prostate-specific glycoprotein that carries HCA, Egenix’s cancer-specific biomarker.
 
Separately this week, Proteome Systems said it expanded its 2005 agreement with Agilent Technologies to co-develop and co-market new technology that uses mass spectrometry to analyze protein-bound sugars.
 
Under its expanded agreement with Agilent, Proteome Systems will provide the company with glycomics applications and software for its mass spectrometers. The prostate cancer project “will benefit enormously from the cooperative technology program with Agilent,” Nicolle Packer, who heads Proteome Systems’ cancer and glycoproteomics programs, said in a statement.
 
Proteome Systems scientists discovered the prostate-specific glycoprotein, which the company declined to identify because it will be part of a patent application, in semen samples from cancer patients with high levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA).
 
“The work was based on our expertise in the detailed analysis of proteins and of the structures of their sugars attached to them to form glycoproteins,” Packer told ProteoMonitor in an e-mail message.
 
Part of her team’s approach to identify the glycoprotein was to use enrichment and purification techniques, she said, since prostate secretions only comprise a small part of a semen sample.
 
The reason Proteome Systems set out to find a protein that is secreted from the prostate and carries HCA, or human carcinoma antigen, is that HCA is cancer-specific but not prostate-specific; it can also indicate ovarian or lung cancer, for example.
 
”Finding a protein which carries the antigen in a body fluid that contains the secretions of the cancerous tissue … enables us now to produce the diagnostic test,” according to Packer.
 
The scientists are now raising antibodies to the prostate-specific glycoprotein, which they will use with an antibody against HCA from Egenex to develop an ELISA assay for prostate cancer in semen. They will then validate the assay using samples from men with prostate cancer, healthy controls, and men with benign prostate disease, all provided by clinical urologist partners in Sydney and Chicago.
 
The collaboration with Egenex, announced originally in March, is one of several diagnostic and drug development projects Proteome Systems has in the works.
 
Besides the prostate cancer diagnostic, the company has been working on a rapid test for tuberculosis. Earlier this year, Proteome Systems signed a partnership with the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics in Geneva to co-develop biomarkers for a TB test after receiving a $2 million grant from the Australian government for TB diagnostics in March of 2005. In late June, Proteome System said it plans to have the test ready for analysis in laboratories by the first quarter of 2007.
 
Last fall, the company said it plans to co-develop an early diagnostic for ovarian cancer with Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research of Melbourne.
 
Proteome Systems has also been developing so-called scavenger compounds to treat damage due to radiation treatment that were originally developed by Eukarion, which Proteome Systems acquired in 2005. Last October, Proteome Systems, along with three other institutions, won a $20 million grant from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to test the compounds as a treatment for medical radiation exposure.
 

Proteome Systems “will continue to find new biomarkers and develop diagnostics for diseases which currently have inadequate tests available in the marketplace.”

“We will continue to find new biomarkers and develop diagnostics for diseases which currently have inadequate tests available in the marketplace,” Packer said.
 
Rough Patches
 
Since the company went public on the Australian Stock Exchange almost two years ago, Proteome Systems, based in Sydney, has navigated through some rough waters that included a change of its leadership and its business model.
 
Founded in 1999, the company initially focused on selling its ProteomIQ 2D gel-based proteomics discovery platform, signing on Shimadzu Biotech, Millipore, Sigma-Aldrich, and IBM as technology partners.
 
After filing an IPO in the summer of 2004, the company began trading publicly in late September of that year at AU$1.20 per share, or around $.84 at the time.
Since then, company shares have tanked to AU$0.28 ($.21), where they closed yesterday.
 
Seeking to cut operating costs by about a third, the company had a round of lay-offs in late 2004 and folded a joint venture with Charles River Laboratories that was showcasing Proteome Systems’ technology.
 
In April 2005, Proteome Systems’ founder, Keith Williams, stepped down as CEO. Stephen Porges took over as new chief after conducting a strategic review of the company’s business and future for the two previous months.
 
Last September, the company raised AU$10 million (around $6.7 million at the time) in a conditional private placement to institutional and professional investors to develop its TB test and scavenger drugs.
 
Porges has been re-focusing the company away from selling proteomic technology systems toward developing therapeutics and diagnostics. According to a presentation he gave at the company’s annual general meeting in November, Proteome Systems plans to have an “aggressive commercial focus” in 2006, including licensing rights to its technology products, finding partners to commercialize its TB test, developing its scavenger drug compounds, pushing forward the clinical development of its topical therapeutic product, and partnering its diagnostic point-of-care platform for clinical applications.
 
What role does proteomics still play at Proteome Systems? “Proteomics technology is crucial to our business as we believe proteomics is the most accurate technology for determining the status of the tissue and thus the biomarkers of the onset of disease,” Packer said. “We will use any proteomics technology available to us as well as develop innovative technology and informatics, when necessary, to solve the problem at hand.”

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