Making their Metamark

Metamark Genetics to provide novel cancer therapeutic targets to Janssen Biotech

Lloyd Dunlap
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Metamark Genetics Inc., a privately heldoncology company focused on the development of function-based prognostic assaysfor early-stage cancers, has entered into a research collaboration and licenseagreement with Janssen Biotech Inc.
 
 
The agreement is based on Metamark's discovery platform forthe identification and characterization of specific proprietary cancer targetsdemonstrated to play a causal role in promoting tumor progression and spread,which the company has trademarked as Prognosis Determinants. Metamark Presidentand CEO Mark R. Straley was most recently the worldwide president of Johnson& Johnson's (J&J) Diagnostics division and was instrumental in puttingthe deal together with Janssen, a J&J company.
 
 
Upon selection of the targets, Janssen Biotech will receivea limited exclusive license under Metamark's intellectual property and know-howand will thereafter be responsible for the discovery, development andcommercialization of therapeutic inhibitors targeting the specific PrognosisDeterminants. Metamark will receive an initial upfront payment from Janssen andmay be eligible to receive up to $365 million in milestone payments acrossmultiple targets, based upon the achievement of development, regulatory andcommercialization goals. In addition, Metamark will be entitled to royalties onworldwide net sales of therapeutics and any associated companion diagnosticsupon commercialization.
 
"This collaboration and license agreement reflect the valueof Metamark's innovative approach to identifying genes and proteins that driveaggressive behavior of tumors—both in the development of prognostic assays aswell as in supporting the discovery and development of novel targetedtherapeutics," says Dr. Eric Devroe, vice president of business and strategydevelopment at Metamark.
 
Straley adds, "our ultimate mission at Metamark Genetics isto improve cancer patient outcomes by empowering personalized treatmentdecisions. This collaboration advances our mission by enabling us to apply ourunique understanding of tumor biology to direct the discovery and developmentof tumor-specific drugs and compounds."
 
 
The collaborative effort appears to be timely: according toMetamark Chief Scientific Officer Peter Blume-Jensen, Big Pharma faces a"patent cliff" in 2012 and is eager for innovation that can help refill itspipelines. Apparently, Metamark's discovery platform for development ofprognostic tests offers real promise of assisting in this effort by identifyingthe genes that play a causal role in promoting tumor progression and spread.
 
 
"Prognosis Determinants are truly the 'drivers' of theaggressive phenotype of cancer, and hence attractive as potential drug targetcandidates," Blume-Jensen says. "They are the proteins encoded by genesexpressed in a metastatic but not a non-metastatic tumor mouse model for aparticular tumor type. These differentially expressed genes have been further'triaged' into human tumors to ensure their relevance for metastatic lesions ofthe same type of human cancer, and ultimately validated in functional assays in vitro and in cancer mouse models.Through this thorough discovery approach, close to 600 non-redundant drugtarget candidates have been identified and functionally validated.Interestingly, for pharmas and biotechs in search of new drug targets, they arerelevant across major tumor types that are among the most common and mostlethal."
 
 
Metamark's technology is based on a "quantitative multipleximmunofluorescence (QMIF) platform," Blume-Jensen says, "integrated withadvanced object recognition. To my knowledge, we have the most advanced QMIFplatform with integrated object recognition. The engineered scope used is fromCRI Vectra with proprietary object recognition programs built on the Definiensplatform. My analogy is that we've combined the luxury of a Rolls Royce and thepower of a Lamborghini into one car—and how we drive it is the secret," hesays.
 
The Metamark business model is to be based initially on areference laboratory at its Cambridge location, where the company is building aCLIA-certified laboratory it expects to be operational in a few months.Referring physicians and pathologists will submit patient biopsy samples, andwithin a few days, get an accurate prognostic test result back. Ultimately,Blume-Jensen says, similar operations will be added elsewhere. He expects thefirst test, which will be for prostate cancer, to be launch-ready in 2012, withother tests to follow later in the year.
 

 
Janssen licensesPhylogica peptide technology
 
 
PERTH, Australia—In other recent Janssen news, the companyhas announced a collaboration and option agreement with Phylogica Ltd., anAustralian peptide drug discovery company, to discover new classes of drugsderived from Phylogica's Phylomerâ peptide platform. 
 
In the initial stage of the collaboration, Phylogica willidentify cell-penetrating Phylomerâ peptides. Under the terms of the agreement,Janssen could develop
Phylomerâ-based drug candidates and has the option to expandthe scope of the collaboration to include additional cell-specific Phylomerâfor the development of a further 10 drug candidates.
 
 
Under the terms of this multi-product agreement, Phylogicawill receive an initial technology access fee as well as research funding overthe first 18 months of the collaboration. Pending ongoing discussions withJanssen regarding commercial terms, Phylogica could receive further researchfunding, license fees, milestone payments and royalties on worldwide sales.


Lloyd Dunlap

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