MONTREAL—Genizon Biosciences announced in mid-January it signed a license and collaboarion deal with Pfizer Inc. for the diagnostic rights to Genizon's discovery programs in Alzheimer's disease, attention deficiti hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and endometriosis.
Under the terms of the pact, Pfizer will pay Genizon upfront license fees and funding for research on genetic variations associated with these diseases. In addition, Pfizer made an equity investment in Genizon as part of its recently announced Series D financing round which raised roughly $8.5 million dollars.
Joining Pfizer in this round was investment firm BTF B.V. of Haarlem, The Netherlands.
"The funding from Pfizer is a significant event for Genizon in that they are a new investor," says Dr. John W. Hooper, president and CEO of Genizon. "But we believe it's significant not just for the funding, but because of the knowledge base at Pfizer. The work we do together will also help us with our internal programs."
The work with Pfizer is also different from an earlier licensing agreement Genizon signed last August with Genentech for its Crohn's disease GeneMap. In that case, Genetech licensed both therapeutic and diagnostic rights. Under the Pfizer deal, the license is only for diagnostic rights with Genizon retaining therapeutic rights in the three disease areas.
While Hooper would not speculate as to why Pfizer only wanted diagnostic rights other than to suggest that the pharma giant probably already has multiple targets in these areas, Kate Robins, spokesperson for Pfizer, indicated the deal is in line with Pfizer's strategy.
"Broadly speaking, this complements work internally and through other collaborations underway at Pfizer to evaluate new approaches that may help us understand underlying causes of disease," she says. "This knowledge could lead to new therapies with heightened specificity and improved safety. We've already been working over the past two decades with genomic leads provided by tip-of-the iceberg observations."
Examples of that work, derived from published studies, includes cetp inhibition, maraviroc,
and JAK 3.
Hooper thinks specificity is the key, as an effective diagnostic tool would greatly speed patient recruitment for Phase I and Phase II clinical studies and potentially help a company get new, more effective treatments to market, faster.
For Genizon, the collaboration will build on ongoing work it is conducting using the Quebec Founders Population (QFP) and will involve the discovery of diagnostic markers of each of the three diseases. Pfizer and Genizon will then work to expand the discoveries from the QFP by including results from genome-wide association studies of the general population.
One reason Genizon is now building a head of steam with large biotech and pharma companies, Hooper says, is because of dramatic improvements the company has made in interpreting the data it generates.
"We've been talking with Pfizer for about two years concerning a number of diseases," he notes. "But it was really our achievements and the results we have been getting in the last year that led to the deal."