In search of cures for ‘his and hers’ cancers

Nuclea Biotech teams with Boston Medical Center on biomarker development

March 7, 2011
Kimberley Sirk
PITTSFIELD, Mass.—Biomarker pioneer Nuclea BiotechnologiesInc. recently announced a new partnership with Boston Medical Center (BMC) thatthe parties say could lead to more effective and patient-specific treatmentsfor people with breast and prostate cancers. The pairing of theMassachusetts-based biotech firm and one of Boston's leading teaching hospitalswill reportedly significantly advance research and development of biomarkers, akey component in the growing field of personalized medicine.
 
Nuclea discovers and develops biomarkers and diagnosticassays that can help predict which treatments will be effective for certainpatients, depending on the patient's genetic makeup.
 
The partnership, which both sides say has been in the worksfor about two years, will work to develop new diagnostic tests, combiningassays with BMC's pathology expertise plus capacity in radiologic testing, intoa new modality to detect the earliest stages of disease.
 
As part of the deal, Nuclea will pay BMC approximately $1.4million over the next three years to support the research. In return, Nucleawill have right of first refusal of commercialization on all new discoveriesrelating to biomarker development, biomarker arrays and methods involving newdiagnostic and novel radiological interpretations.
The partnership wraps in BMC's Department of Pathology andLaboratory Medicine and the Department of Radiology. The combination of the twoareas of expertise will direct the research focus toward gene expressions inspecific tumors to help radiologists review results in a different and morecomprehensive way.
 
Daniel Remick, the director of BMC's Department of Pathologyand Laboratory Medicine, says new initiatives at BMC led the drive toward thepartnership with Nuclea.
 
"Nuclea has previously partnered with pathologists at otheracademic medical centers," Remick says. "With the recruitment of a new chair ofPathology and Laboratory Medicine, there was a re-invigoration of the researchmission within pathology at Boston Medical Center."
 
Nuclea's Patrick Muraca, the company's president and CEO,says that the combination of medical specialities, paired with Nuclea's uniquecapabilities, also promises to hone in on hard-to-diagnose cancers inunderserved populations.
 
 
"The new testing modality in gene or protein expression,combined with radiologic testing tools, will help confirm the presence ofcancers," Muraca says. "Our expertise in gene and protein expression technologyand bioinformatics will help sort through data sets faster. Most hospitalsdon't have that capability themselves. The hospital will bring this newapproach to underserved communities, such as in African-American men with prostatecancer—a patient population they have access to."
 
 
Remick agrees: "One of the new initiatives of the departmentwas to develop a robust biorepository," he says. "Nuclea and BMC will partnerto study specimens from the biorepository, capitalizing on the strengths fromeach organization."
 
 
Specifically, adds Remick, each partner brings ready accessto the tools each needs to be a productive partner immediately.
 
"The pathologists at BMC bring diagnostic expertise and acollection of frozen biospecimens. Nuclea has a range of antibodies andmolecular testing that will be used for study in these specimens. Betterdiagnostic and prognostic protocols will be established through thispartnership as a result," Remick says.
 
 
Both sides of the collaboration say the pact means more jobsfor each organization. Muraca indicates that Nuclea will add three newpositions to deal with the huge volume of data to be reviewed, and Remickstates that the BMC and the Boston University School of Medicine will addfaculty and staff in both radiology and pathology.
 
"This partnership allows our department to continue ourhistoric mission of conducting research," concludes Remick. "Exceptional carewithout exception includes expanding diagnostic tests so that they more effectivelydetect cancers, so that treatment may begin as soon as possible. Thispartnership will allow us to leverage our existing resources to move diagnostictests to the next level."
 
Muraca has high hopes for the partnership and its potentialimpact on the growing field of personalized medicine.
 
"We would like to come up with our first diagnostic testwithin a year," Muraca says. "Hopefully, that will then become the standard inpersonalized medicine. It is our hope that new testing methods will enable doctorsto refine treatments to suit the patient, instead of using a cookie-cutterapproach to curing disease."
 
 
Nuclea Biotechnologies is headquartered in Pittsfield, withadditional operations in Worcester, Mass. Nuclea has developed and iscommercializing 11 unique diagnostic tests for breast, colon, lung and prostatecancers, as well as for leukemia. Nuclea also performs research leading tonovel molecular oncology therapeutics and diagnostics for the pharmaceuticaland biotechnology industries.
 
BMC is a private, not-for-profit, 639-licensed bed, academicmedical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston UniversitySchool of Medicine. The hospital offers a full spectrum of pediatric and adultcare services including primary and family medicine and advanced specialty carewith an emphasis on community-based care. BMC and Boston University School ofMedicine are partners in the Boston HealthNet, 15 community health centersfocused on providing healthcare to residents of Boston.
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