BELMONT, Calif.—Alion Pharmaceuticals is tapping the Medical Prognosis Institute (MPI) to develop a companion diagnostic that will identify patients likely to respond to a new cancer treatment. MPI, a Danish pharmacodiagnostic company, will develop a predictive test that will help Alion select patients for clinical trials of one of several ion channel inhibitors the firm is developing for the treatment of certain cancers. Alion has not disclosed which of its ion channel inhibitors MPI’s diagnostic test will be geared toward.
MPI, which has an office in Scottsdale, Ariz., develops companion diagnostics to support the development of cancer therapeutics. Its DRP platform is used by drug development teams to identify which patients will respond to a drug and which indications of the drug are most likely to be most successful. The platform, which combines gene expression profiling with systems biology analytics, has the potential to significantly increase the probability of successful Phase 3 drug development. MPI reports the DRP can be used in all cancer types and was patented for more than 60 anticancer drugs in the United States in 2013.
“Our platform draws on millions of data points from diverse groups of tumor types to predict which forms of cancer might respond to a treatment,” Peter Buhl Jensen, CEO of MPI, tells DDNews. “It provides valuable guidance in terms of where to direct drug development.”
Alion is a pharmaceutical company focused on developing a pipeline of ion channel inhibitors and integral membrane proteins to treat cancer and central nervous system disorders. Ion channels regulate specific stages of cancer, and researchers have found that blocking activity in ion channels can impair the growth of some tumors. Alion’s proprietary techniques can be used to identify small molecules that modulate specific ligand and voltage-gated ion channels.
Alion will use MPI’s drug predictor platform to identify which general types of cancers its ion channel inhibitor has the most potential to treat effectively. DRP may then be used to select and enroll likely responder patients in a Phase 1 trial for the drug.
“This project underscores Alion’s commitment to the development of precision cancer drugs by employing cutting-edge companion diagnostics to identify and enroll the right patients in order to conduct successful clinical trials with patients that will actually benefit,” said Alion CEO Allan Bates.
MPI co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Steen Knudsen said that he is “confident that the DRP biomarker to be developed for Alion’s lead ion channel inhibitor will enable the identification and selection of likely responding patients for the drug, and we look forward to confirming this as the Phase 1 trial unfolds.”
Jensen tells DDNews that the agreement demonstrates the potential of its diagnostic platform to steamline and improve the drug development process while minimizing risks. “Partnerships like this provide MPI another chance to demonstrate proof of concept in screening patients,” he notes. “Working with Alion will allow us to advance a new paradigm in cancer drug development by using our diagnostic platform to select a targeted population of patients most likely to respond to this drug based on their tumor biology.” Jensen also adds that while large pharmaceutical companies have developed their own diagnostic systems, few have been as thoroughly tested as MPI’s. “ I think that our platform has real value for Big Pharma companies because it is a system that has been validated thoroughly,” he says.
Financial terms of the agreement between Alion and MPI have not been publicly disclosed.