A duo that’s sweet on new biomarkers

Ezose Sciences and Hirosaki University to collaborate in glycomics research to find new cancer biomarkers

Jeffrey Bouley
PINE BROOK, N.J.—Intending to focus on urological cancers,Ezose Sciences Inc.—an affiliate of the Diagnostics Division of Osaka,Japan-based Shionogi & Co. Ltd.—is teaming up with another player in Japan,Hirosaki University, to identify new biomarkers for use in predicting andmonitoring the progression of various cancers, notably those of the prostate.
 
 
Using Ezose's GlycanMap platform, the research will examineserum and urine samples collected by Hirosaki University clinical investigatorsfrom well-characterized patient and control populations in Japan, to then beanalyzed by Ezose at its U.S. laboratories.
 
 
"This agreement marks another step that scientists at Ezoseand in universities are taking together to improve our understanding of therole of glycans in health and disease," said Dr. Hidehisa Asada, vice presidentof research and development at Ezose, in the news release about thecollaboration. "Given the already established clinical utility of glycan-basedbiomarkers in certain cancers, we believe that further studies in oncology holdpromise for identifying other novel biomarkers that could help guide clinicalpractice."
 
 
The short-term strategic goals of the collaboration, Asadatells ddn, are to identify novel andclinically useful glycan biomarkers for prostate cancer progression andgenerate intellectual property rights. Under terms of the agreement, Ezose isgranted exclusive rights by Hirosaki University to develop and commercializenew biomarkers resulting from the collaboration.
 
 
"By exercising or licensing IP rights, we would ultimatelycommercialize new biomarkers to help guide drug development and clinicalpractice," he says, adding that the long-term goals are to expand research toother types of cancers "to understand which glycans play an important role indisease development and progression. This may also create opportunities toidentify new drug targets for attacking disease."
 
 
The market favors an approach like this because "glycomics[the study of sugar chains that, through glycosylation, become attached to manyproteins expressed by human cells] is beginning to come into its own as a basictool in biomedical research," says Dr. Chikara Ohyama, chairman of theDepartment of Urology at the Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine onthe university's campus in Hon-cho. "We look forward to applying this newtechnology to unmet medical needs in managing urologic cancers through thecomplementary contributions of Ezose's scientists and our own."
 
 
Ezose and Hirosaki maintain that glycomics is a naturalcomplement to genomics and proteomics, but note it has traditionally beenhindered by the lack of practical high-throughput and quantitativetechnologies. Ezose's GlycanMap platform is intended to addresses this need bycombining, in an automated 96-well format, high-throughput glycan enrichmentwith specialized MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and custom bioinformatics to bothstructurally identify and quantitate glycans present in complex biologicalsamples.
 
 
Asada says talks about the collaboration started when Ohyamavisited the Ezose company booth at the annual conference of the Society forGlycobiology in 2009, which was just after Ezose had begun operations as astart-up, and Ohyama's strong leadership and publications in glycobiologyresearch related to urology proved to be attractive to Ezose. For Ohyama, Asadasays, the attraction was Ezose's unique high-throughput capabilities in glycananalysis.
 
 
"We have complementary skill sets to drive potentialproducts based on glycan biomarkers from bench to bedside," Asada says."Hirosaki University has state-of-the-art facilities and trained leaders inclinical urology who can facilitate quick enrollment and collection of clinicalsamples for collaborative biomarker research. Also, Prof. Ohyama's glycobiologyexpertise offers opportunity for collaborative interpretation of the glycanchanges observed in cancer development and progression. Ezose Sciences bringsto the collaboration its proprietary GlycanMap analysis platform. Thistechnology facilitates, in a way generally not possible before, thehigh-throughput identification and quantitation of glycans in clinical samples.In addition, Ezose's sophisticated bioinformatic tools for data readout andvisualization allow the collaborators to more broadly review and interpretglycan data." 
 
 
Urologic cancers, such as those of the bladder and prostate,are highly prevalent worldwide, and significant unmet needs remain for both themedical management and treatment of these diseases, Asada points out. 
 
"Prof. Ohyama and the team at Hirosaki are world leaders inresearching these diseases, and one of the few groups focused on glycobiologyas a new area of promising study," he tells ddn. "Yet they, like others working in glycobiology, have been limited bythe lack of suitable high-throughput analytic methods to more rapidly progresstheir work. Together, we believe that we can much more rapidly progress studiesto advance our understanding of these diseases and improve medical management andtreatment for patients."
 
 

 
Ezose Sciences and Sigma-Tau advance projects inglycomics
 
 
PINE BROOK, N.J.—In April, Ezose Sciences Inc. alsoannounced an agreement to apply its glycomics capabilities to biologicsresearch and development projects at Sigma-Tau Industrie Farmaceutiche RiuniteSPA, an Italian pharmaceutical group that specializes in immuno-oncology,biotechnology and rare, neglected and/or high social-impact diseases.
 
 
The collaboration will build on R&D work conducted underprior agreements between Ezose and Sigma-Tau. Financial terms and other detailswere not disclosed.
 
 
Marco Brughera, corporate R&D managing director ofSigma-Tau, said in a statement, "As a company committed to innovation, we relynot only on the contributions of Sigma-Tau's in-house scientific talent, butalso on the support of others who are pioneering their special fields. Wewelcome this opportunity to work with Ezose in bringing their unique glycomicscapabilities to our research program."

Jeffrey Bouley

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