An immunological decision

Selventa, Janssen form research agreement targeted toward treating immunological disease

Lori Lesko
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Personalized healthcare company SelventaInc. has signed a multi-year research agreement with biotechnology firm JanssenResearch & Development LLC aimed at discovering new potential drugstargeted toward treating immunological disease. The company declined todisclose the financial details of the deal.
 
Selventa, specializing in patient stratification forpersonalized medicine, formed the collaboration with Janssen specifically todevelop disease models using diverse biologic data to elaboratedisease-relevant mechanisms, according to a Feb. 27 company news release.Janssen, formerly known as Centocor Research and Development Inc., is a subsidiaryof Johnson & Johnson.
 
 
David de Graaf, president and CEO of Selventa, shed light onwhy Janssen was chosen for this endeavor: "A past research project with anaffiliate of Janssen R&D yielded a joint publication that sought toidentify genes associated with intestinal permeability post-anti-TNF therapy inulcerative colitis," de Graaf stated in a news release. "We are very excited tohave the opportunity to continue to work with Janssen R&D. Buildingcomprehensive disease models and investigating different molecular mechanismsmay provide key data-driven foundations for appropriate selection of drugablemechanisms within a disease."
 
Further, Selventa includes the assessment of single andcombination therapies, segmentation of potential responder and non-responderpopulations, evaluation of alternative indications and optimization ofproof-of-concept clinical trial design through stratification of biomarkerpanels. Selventa also works with pharmaceutical and life-science companies todevelop new therapeutics for oncology, metabolic disorders, cardiovasculardiseases, inflammation and drug safety.
 
Selventa declined to provide more detailed information orany specific examples on what exactly the collaboration plans to do first, norwould the company elaborate on the venture's short- and long-term plans.Selventa spokesperson Diane Song said the company would only answer questionspertaining to "a general description of Selventa's strategies for biomarkerdiscovery to aid drug discovery and development—and not specifically related tothe recent press release on the Janssen collaboration."
 
 
In an email to ddn,de Graaf provided a general description of the company, adding, "Byunderstanding multiple disease-driving mechanisms of a clinically definedsingle disease, we can start to address the complex heterogeneity of thedisease and better define potential responder and non-responder populationsthrough Selventa Therapeutic Diagnostic (TDx). Beyond finding biomarkers for aspecific drug to identify potential responders (conventional way of developinga companion diagnostic), we can also identify alternative disease-drivingmechanisms in non-responding populations for portfolio optimization (innovativedevelopment of a TDx)."
 
In December 2010, Selventa promoted de Graaf to itspresident and CEO from his previous role as chief scientific officer.
 
 
Selventa raised nearly $4.96 million in November in a newfunding round that has an indefinite top end, according to a document filedwith the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A total of nine unnamedinvestors participated in the new equity funding round, according to the SECdocuments. Previous backers of the company, when it was known as GenstructInc., include Flagship Ventures and Pappas Ventures.
 
Listed as related persons in the filing are co-founderNoubar Afeyan and chairman Jim Matheson, both of Flagship; Sean McCarthy ofPappas; and Michael Pavia, a former entrepreneur-in-residence at OxfordBiosciences Partners, now working as an independent consultant.

Lori Lesko

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